Keeping the peace: What it’s like to be a bouncer in St. Charles

Published: Saturday, April 20, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Bouncer Kevin "Malachai" Carpenter watches as two patrons walk away from the bar after appearing too intoxicated at the Beehive in downtown St. Charles.

ST. CHARLES – Kevin “Malachai” Carpenter has been to some bars where the bouncers are rude and quick to yell, but that’s not the tone he sets when working the door at the Beehive Tavern and Grille in downtown St. Charles.

“You don’t have to be that way,” he said.

Describing his demeanor as stern and polite, the 38-year-old Sycamore resident said he isn’t in this job looking for a fight to break up. Rather, he said, his goal is keeping the bar safe.

“The less incidents I have the better,” Carpenter said while monitoring the patio on a recent Thursday night.

Carpenter, who spends his days working security at Best Buy in DeKalb, said he began working at the Beehive on St. Patrick’s Day seven years ago. He has spent the last several years as head doorman.

When hiring bouncers, he said, he looks for people who are friendly but assertive. He said they should be able to settle a fight, although he turns away those with a fight mentality.

Appearance can help to some extent, he said, acknowledging his larger build, piercings and tattoos. But, he said, his job is less about looks and more about how he holds himself. The more he respects the customers, he said, the more they respect him when he asks them to leave.

His approach seems to work.

Regulars approached him that chilly Thursday night with hugs and handshakes and short conversations before they headed inside. And when some stepped outside for a smoke, Carpenter offered them a light.

“That’s almost one requirement as a bouncer – to have a lighter,” he said.

This night was relatively calm. Some customers quietly left after the St. Louis Blues defeated the Blackhawks in a shootout, while others just starting their night trickled in.

It wasn’t the rowdy scene some might envision knowing the City Council has been scrutinizing the downtown bar scene since Mayor Don DeWitte asked aldermen in August to change the city’s closing time in an effort to curb overserving.

Carpenter – who from his outdoor post also monitors the pool table area inside and is ready to diffuse escalating situations before they turn into fights – spent much of the night checking the IDs of the few people he didn’t know. He also stopped one person from slipping inside without getting carded and refused entry to a banned patron.

Sometimes, Carpenter said after the man left, people think that because they know him he will relax the rules for them. Only the ownership or manager can override a banned status, which is imposed for such behaviors as fighting and starting trouble with the waitstaff, he said.

Once the weather gets warmer, Carpenter will have more to monitor, especially Friday and Saturday nights when the patio is packed with people sipping drinks, he said.

Unlike such movies as “Road House,” Carpenter said, his experience as a doorman has been relatively tame. There aren’t fights every night, he said, crediting the staff for setting a tone that lets people come out to have a good time.

“I love this job,” he said.

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