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Chicago's Most Dangerous Job? Bouncers On Edge After Deadly Shootings

By Evan F. Moore | April 11, 2016 8:43am
 Due to recent shootings at bars in Chicago, bouncers are thinking of their own mortality. 
Due to recent shootings at bars in Chicago, bouncers are thinking of their own mortality. 
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DNAinfo/Andrea V. Watson

CHICAGO— When "Henry" was a bouncer at a Ukrainian Village bar six years ago, a man he kicked out earlier in the night came back to shoot him. 

The bullet traveled through his left arm, which he had used to shield himself from the gunfire. 

Four days later, the manager of the bar called him in to train the person who would eventually take his job, since the shooting led to his demotion. He asked that his real name not be used in this story. 

"After it happened, I got demoted. The bar sent me to a shrink who convinced me it was my fault. She said 'Why didn't you stop him?' What are you talking about, b---h?" Henry said. "There's isn't much for us in terms of psychological treatment or trauma. There needs to be something in place when things go bad." 

"Henry" had exit wounds from when he was shot while working at a Ukrainian Village nightclub six years ago. [Facebook]

Despite his bad luck at the door, when Henry hears about a bouncer being killed at work, he counts his blessings. In the last few weeks, three bouncers have been shot in Chicago — and two of them died from their injuries. 

"No matter what they tell you, there's nothing that can prepare you for getting shot. I'm a bouncer. We get paid like s---," Henry said. "I had no idea what I was signing up for. When I hear about guys getting shot, I know I was lucky that things didn't get worst."

The slayings have some of any the city's bouncers calling for higher pay and some sort of security for their families if they don't make it back home. The family of Angel Ortiz Jr., 51, who was shot dead while working the door at Brudder's in Irving Park on April 2, had to raise money online for his funeral expenses. 

Just last week, a 29-year-old bouncer at Darrin's Cocktail Lounge, 1249 E. 87th St., was shot after denying entry to a regular. On March 25, Andrew Love was shot dead while breaking up a fight at the 50 Yard Line bar in Greater Grand Crossing.

Andrew Love, 29, was fatally shot while working to break up a fight at the 50 Yard Line on March 25. [DNAinfo/Joe Ward]

"He was always the first one trying to break up a fight — he's a big guy," said Natali Wright, Love's fiance. "That guy who was armed, he just turned around and started shooting."

Henry said he received some lost wages from the bar, but soon after that they hired someone else. 

A bouncer who once worked at The Shrine, which was recently shut down due to a shooting that left two people wounded, told DNAinfo that a union for bouncers is needed more than ever. 

"I believe we need a union for higher pay, benefits, medical insurance, and to provide for families in case we do get injured or die on the job," the bouncer, who wanted to remain anonymous for job security reasons, said. "When I hear about bouncers being shot, I hope it's no one I know, how it could of been me, is the job worth the money we make in such a dangerous city? What their families have lost over nothing."

Reporter Evan F. Moore worked as a bouncer for 10 years:

Mike O'Connor has worked as a bouncer at bars in Chicago on and off for the past 20 years. When he heard about the shootings, he said it is a sobering reminder of the downside of what he signed up for. 

"It's always in the back of your mind. Like the gentleman at Brudder's. He was doing his job breaking up fights and someone took at shot at him," O'Connor said. "When you think it's over, it can kick off again. That is the worst part."

Details on what exactly happened at Brudder's have not been released by police or bar staff.

O'Connor said that a union for bouncers sounds good in theory, but doesn't see it as a reality.

"On our end, we sometimes get the guys who all they want to do is fight. That's a problem. They think the job is like the movie 'Roadhouse,'" O'Connor said. "As far as a union, I think it would be difficult to establish something. A lot of guys don't have the temperment."

Val Capone (who prefers to go by her roller derby name), has worked the door at bars and venues such as The Metro, Beat Kitchen and Reggie's Rock Room. When she worked the job, she hated being a called a bouncer due to its negative connotation.

"I got paid well but this was getting out of hand and there was a chance that I could die," Capone said, explaining why she left the job behind. "The word 'bouncer' makes it seem like all you want to do is fight. We're just there the make sure no one gets hurt."

Capone says the general public is unaware of what the role actually is, and often treat them poorly.

"We're not cops. We're not trying to be cops. We just want to keep the place secure," Capone said. 

Henry hopes that the recent shootings will help people understand what bouncers go through in order to keep venues and bars safe.

"What would've happened if I let that guy back in? We were never trained to handle a situation like that," Henry said. "People should stop treating bouncers like s---."

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