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Nightlife

Without warning: Nightclubs now too quick on the trigger?

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What’s more disturbing? That this chick passed out at home before even starting her drink, or the hideous floor tile?
Rick Lax

I saw six guys get kicked out of Ghostbar for jumping on the transparent acrylic floor inset repeatedly and in unison. They weren’t fooling around; they were trying to shatter it.

My first thought was the predictable one: Those guys were engaging in potentially dangerous behavior, and they deserved to be kicked out for it. But as the days went by, my thoughts on the matter changed: This sort of thing was foreseeable. By installing a see-through panel in the patio floor of a bar 55 stories up, Ghostbar is practically begging drunken idiots to jump on it. Presumably, Ghostbar installed a panel sturdy enough to withstand the repeated pounding of drunken idiots. So, why’d the security guard kick the guys out so quickly? Why not start with a warning, like in soccer?

I don’t want to single Ghostbar out here. But why does the entire nightlife industry—nightclubs, bars, strip clubs, casinos—encourage you to do certain things … but then punish you for doing too much of those things?

A club might encourage you to order a second bottle by threatening to boot you from your table if you don’t. But, if you do buy that second bottle, and if you do drink it, and if you do, say, vomit on the shoes of a stranger sitting next to you—the natural and foreseeable consequences of getting too drunk—you’ll be asked to leave (read: get kicked out).

Or when the DJ beckons you to the dance floor and spins a song about either 1) how great having sex is or 2) how awful not having sex is. Often, the song explicitly tells you to “get freaky,” to “get your freak on” or to “do the freak.” But the second you stop simulating sexual activity (freakdancing) and begin doing it (undressing, excessively fondling, etc.) you’re asked to leave (again: kicked out).

I understand why clubs push patrons to drink (that’s how they make money) and why clubs push patrons to dance (that’s how they get people into the club). And I understand the reasons why clubs kick people out for going too far with either. But why not be a little more sympathetic towards those who “go too far?”

At the end of the The Devil’s Advocate—not that I’ve watched it so much that I can quote it in context—Al Pacino’s character gives this speech: “God is a prankster. He gives man instincts. He gives you this extraordinary gift, and then what does He do? I swear, for His own amusement—his own private, cosmic gag reel—He sets the rules in opposition. Look, but don’t touch. Touch, but don’t taste. Taste, but don’t swallow.”

Unlike the God about which Pacino speaks, Las Vegas bars and nightclubs and strip clubs don’t operate “for their own amusement.” But similarly, bars and clubs and strip joints do push people to the line and then kick out them for crossing it. Look, but don’t touch is a hard rule to follow. Don’t take my word for it; ask Adam and Eve.

Just as some theology students believe God overreacted to Adam and Eve’s crime of weakness (Did all of humanity really need to be punished for all of eternity?), I believe bars and clubs sometimes overreact to patrons’ own crimes of weakness. Again, couldn’t the guard who kicked the guys out of Ghostbar have started with a warning?

Maybe not. Maybe the guys had already been warned before I arrived. Or maybe the floor panel is sturdy enough to withstand great weight—according to the Weekly article “50 Things We Bet You Didn’t Know About Vegas’ Nightclubs” (June 28, 2007), it can withstand 7,500 pounds at its center—and the guard just kicked the guys out so the other Ghostbar patrons wouldn’t have to worry about watching six drunken idiot fall to their deaths.

When a patron gets too drunk and does something stupid (i.e., not malicious), her only real “crime” is weakness. When a couple “takes things too far” on the dance floor or anywhere near it, they probably aren’t perverts or exhibitionists; they’re probably just impulsive. The law demands that anything “lewd and lascivious” stop immediately, but let’s all try to have a little more sympathy for the process, maybe take a cue from soccer and issue a yellow card of warning before the dreaded red card of ejection.

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