‘We hunt in packs’: The view of drunken violence from the frontline of Bristol nightlife

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“In order to make a nightclub successful, you have to be judgemental.”

That is the hard-won wisdom of the man who manages Park Street’s Elbow Room bar. His given name is Isaiah, but he says everyone knows him as Eyez.

The vigilance suggested by his nickname is a necessary trait in his line of work. The 27-year-old says trouble is never far away in Park Street.

Donning a grey tweed jacket and black waistcoat as he prepares for a Thursday night at the Elbow Room, the manager cuts a suave figure, but he is not afraid to step in if rowdiness turns to riot.

As casually as if he were discussing the weather, Eyez says: “I have been smacked in here quite a few times.”

Park Street, sloping down from Clifton to the city centre, is a popular clubbing destination for both students and locals.

Speaking to Bristol Live , people on the frontline of nightlife in Park Street and the Clifton Triangle paint a picture of drunken violence, entitled students and illicit acts in toilets.

‘There were riots here every weekend’

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Eyez, centre, with Elbow Room regulars Kelsey, left, and Ashley

“I see people getting bottled,” Eyez says. “I see people getting heels in their noses.

“Park Street is the one for kicking off in Bristol. It is pure drinking. Stokes Croft ain’t got s*** on Park Street.

“When Park Street kicks off, it really kicks off – which is most weekends.

“The girls are probably worse than the guys. A guy you can drag out, but doormen can’t do that to a girl – we have some door staff who are women, for that specific reason.”

Eyez became manager of the Elbow Room seven months ago, at a troubled time for the bar.

“There were riots here every weekend,” he says. “Now you don’t see many. You get a bit of rar-rar-rar, but very few blows.

“Before I was here, they used one doorman to take four or five guys out. It won’t work because they will kick off.

“Now we hunt in packs. We have three or four bouncers on them and make them get the f*** out.”

The manager believes a key factor in keeping the bar trouble-free is which clubbers are allowed in.

“If you don’t discriminate in a club, you will get a club that kicks off all the time,” he adds.

“What do we discriminate on? How p****d people are. Sometimes their character. If it’s a man on his own, he’s possibly looking for a fight.”

Eyez recalls one amusing moment which captures the toxic masculinity he so often witnesses.

“We had this one guy in here who said he would drop me. What happened was he dropped his phone.

“He was never going to take a swing. He was one of those guys who say a lot – very small, in his 40s.

“When we chucked him out, he said, ‘You can’t touch me now I’m out here.’

“I told him, ‘You can’t touch me either. What’s your point?’”

‘You meet some right horrible rude ones’

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Mbargo in Clifton Triangle

A short walk up the Clifton Triangle, we meet Brittany Mauro who is at the start of a four-hour shift, promoting student favourite Mbargo until 2am.

Brittany is only 19, but she has seen a lifetime’s worth of nocturnal aggravation since she became a promoter last August.

She speaks in a thick Bristol accent, but not entirely fondly of her home city.

“I do shifts in Cardiff too, and the people on nights out there are friendlier than in Bristol,” she says.

“More people strike up a conversation with you in Cardiff. You do meet some wonderful people over here, but you meet some right horrible rude ones.”

Brittany reveals it often “kicks off” after 12am, when the queues for clubs are getting longer.

“That’s when it gets rowdy,” she adds. “The coppers will pitch up just as they start fighting and security guards are pulling them all off each other.”

Mbargo’s assistant manager chips in: “There aren’t many fights at this club because there is quite a short queuing space and there are strict rules about entry.

“We have no lone persons, no tracksuits. You don’t let in tracksuits, you avoid half the trouble.”

The 20-year-old, who wants to be anonymous, has worked on the Triangle for 18 months, starting at the Brass Pig bar before moving into the Mbargo management.

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He says: “Student nights are a lot easier. The worst thing they will do is call you names if they get chucked out. They’ll say things like, ‘My dad’s a lawyer.’

“It’s the older lot who cause more problems, on a Saturday night. But we really don’t have many issues at all.”

While he feels students are easier to deal with, he says they can be “up their own a****”.

“They are used to their parents doing everything for them,” he adds. “They don’t realise this is a club and we can refuse anyone we want to.”

‘We are nice people’

Our next stop on the Triangle is Moroccan-styled club LoLa Lo, watched over by a five-strong security team.

There we meet Sav, a bouncer thickset enough to strike fear into the unruliest revellers, but also one who harbours literary aspirations.

“I could write a book about everything I’ve seen on this job over the past 22 years,” he says. “I’ve got more than enough material, and I took a creative writing course at uni.”

Asked what sort of thing he encounters, he replies: “It’s the standard – people s***ging in the toilets.

“We actually have very few problems here because we are good at what we do and we don’t let any t**** in.

“Some venues attract and welcome idiots who want to fight. S*** venues who let s*** people in are going to get s***.

“We have probably had one incident in four months, which is the way it should be. No one here wants to go out and hit anyone.”

Sav feels the opposite is true about some bouncers at other nightclubs across Bristol, adding: “Speak to some of the students who get punched.

“We are nice people in this team, and we treat people nicely. If you hit someone, you are going to have the police on your back.

“People don’t want to come to bars where that happens. Hence why we are busy and some other clubs in Bristol are not.”

Like at the Elbow Room and Mbargo, lone men are not allowed into LoLa Lo.

Sav says: “It’s not safe to let them in. It should be illegal.

“When you are working with the general public, you never know what is going to happen. You are on silly street.”

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