Marco Feltrin says he did a double take when the woman slung a racial slur at him, as the coda to her demand that he get out of her way.
The Brazilian tech worker was drinking with friends and family in the Living Room on Cathal Brugha Street four Saturdays ago, he says.
Another customer had tried to pass by Feltrin, who at the time was carrying two pints. She became aggressive when she couldn’t, and hurled the abuse. His group of friends and hers started to argue, Feltrin says.
It wasn’t the racial slur that upset him, as much as the reaction by pub security, who – after his friends became upset – insisted that his group leave, Feltrin says.
“One bouncer came and put the other group inside,” he says. “Then another bouncer came and said I had to leave.”
Feltrin says he refused, and so he was pulled off the premises by several security guards, which has left him wondering if stricter policies need to be in place for how staff deal with instances like these.
“We do not tolerate racism of any kind,” said a spokesperson for the Living Room on 6 November.
The spokesperson said that we could review the CCTV footage of what happened the night Feltrin was removed, but after four more emails, hadn’t set up a time to do that.
There are already standards in place for bouncers who work the doors at pubs and clubs, according to Pat Gooley, spokesperson for the Private Security Authority (PSA), which regulates the private-security services.
In essence, security staff act on behalf of the premises, who need to meet the requirements of the Liquor Act, which includes refusing to serve alcohol to drunk people and removing intoxicated customers who behave in a violent, threatening or abusive manner.
Pubs and clubs are far more aware of lawsuits these days than in the past, says Adrian Cummins, head of the Restaurants Association of Ireland (RAI). That means the many bouncers now wear cameras when working the doors. “It’s to negate insurance risk,” he said.
Mick McQuillan, who worked in private security throughout the 1990s and now serves as chairman of the Irish Security Industry Association (ISIA), said bouncers are generally careful what they do and say. “As an industry, we’re a lot more PC than we’ve ever been,” he says.
The job requires diplomacy, which is where training kicks in, covering everything from criminal and civil law, to health-and-safety legislation, to conflict-management and communication skills.
Bouncers can make a citizen’s arrest and then revert to An Garda Síochána, McQuillan said. “They have no additional powers,” he says. “However, they do have a duty of care to other patrons in a pub.”
That can mean taking a reasonable level of force to prevent escalation or further violence or abuse. “What’s reasonable and what’s not reasonable very often ends up in a courtroom,” says McQuillan.
The Human Element
Of course, there is a human element in all this. Bouncers take abuse too, and with alcohol involved, situations can often devolve into he said/she said-type arguments.
Moments of madness on the part of the bouncer and the customer do occur, says McQuillan. That’s the unavoidable, human element of the gig, he says.
“That can happen in any service industry,” says McQuillan. “But you’re really risk assessing every single conversation that you have. The job requires a lot more thought now.”
If someone refuses to leave after being asked several times by security staff to do so, then they are likely to be removed, McQuillan says.
“It’s a very drastic decision to make to remove somebody from a premises,” he says. “We would always say to people that that’s a last resort.”
Feltrin says he did refuse to leave, but he still feels that the treatment he received was over the top.
“They didn’t even listen,” he says. “I said, ‘I’m not leaving, that’s not fair. You’re protecting that group. The group is being racist and you’re protecting them.'”
What Can Be Done?
McQuillan of the ISIA says someone in Feltrin’s situation should call the Gardaí if they feel they have been racially abused.
Gardaí say they have 250 trained ethnic liaison officers tasked with assisting “in the investigation of racist incidents” and ensuring “appropriate support mechanisms are available to members of ethnic minorities”, and they have a Racial, Intercultural, and Diversity Office.
A person in Feltrin’s position can also report the racial abuse to the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) Ireland, though its iReport system. But neither reporting it to Gardaí, nor reporting it to ENAR helps a bit, in the moment.
If a person in Feltrin’s situation feels unfairly treated by security staff, McQuillan says, that person can insist on being given a reason why they are being removed from the premises there and then, provided they are not too intoxicated.
Feltrin did not contact the Gardaí. And when he asked why he was being asked to leave he was not offered an explanation, he says.
Feltrin says he wants a public apology.
He tried to contact the Living Room in the days following the incident, he says. A week later, somebody at the Living Room contacted him to discuss it, he says.
Feltrin met with a representative and, he says, told them he wanted a public apology for what he felt was a public humiliation, an overreaction on the part of the security staff. “They should know that what happened was wrong,” says Feltrin.
During this meeting, which Feltrin describes as “a complete disaster”, Feltrin was not offered an apology, he says. Instead, he was asked what else he wanted from the Living Room, he says.
“I said, ‘I don’t want anything. I want respect,'” says Feltrin. “I was told there were two sides to the story. But I said ‘Where’s the other side? Did you watch the CCTV? Can you see me trying to fight at some point?”