Untold stories of the front door guardians

It’s almost like Mack Meyer was born to be a bouncer. With a father who owns KAM’S, it only seems natural that when the time came, and Meyer was old enough to work in a bar, he would find his spot posted up outside the entrance to the Home of the Drinking Illini.

“My dad opened KAM’S in 1992, so a little after I was born,” said Meyer, junior in LAS. “I’ve been around it for awhile, and growing up I planned on working at KAM’S and going to U of I. I’m a huge Illini fan.”

Now head doorman, Meyer can be spotted on any given night, sporting his orange KAM’S tee and running the show. As head of the doormen and carders, Meyer takes his job seriously, and does his best to have a smooth production each night.

“We start prepping the bar as soon as we get there around 8,” he said, “We’re turning on lights, making sure cups are stocked, prepping the basement for any parties, and getting everything set for a fun night. Personally, I think the doormen are what make the business happen.”

Around 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. is when the crowds start appearing, with lines sometimes reaching the front door of Silver Mine Subs next door. But after working at KAM’S for almost three years, Meyer knows how to handle the crowds.

“You’re the sober one, and the patrons are not, so obviously they’re going to have a different mindset when they come into the bar,” he said. “You don’t have to be mean, but you have to be assertive. You can’t sit up there and act like a little baby or you won’t get anything accomplished. The key is you have to be aware of your surroundings.”

Aside from crowds practically crushing each other to get inside, KAM’S faces another key problem: name dropping at the door.

“They’ll drop employees from Joe’s and Cly’s, and we just say ‘are you sure you’re at the right bar?’”

To try and combat this ongoing issue, KAM’S has a new policy where the employees have to be with their friends and walk them up to the door.

The worst line Meyer has heard from people trying to cut the line?

“I’m a football player,” he said. “I mean, I know a lot of them because they try to get in. The football player line is really annoying.”

And if somebody annoys the doormen, they definitely are not getting in any faster.

Tommy Munger, junior in engineering, is also an employee at KAM’S, and along with Meyer, has a connection to the campus establishment – his parents met there once upon a time. Along with being part of a fun work environment filled with all college-age employees, there are certain other perks of being a KAM’S employee that Munger appreciates.

“I’ve cut the line quite a few times, and I also haven’t paid cover there in quite a while either,” he said. “We do get some reduced drink rates as well.”

Munger used to work the door, but found that with how difficult people can sometimes be at the door, he would rather enjoy being part of the behind the scenes work at KAM’S, making sure the ice is always fully stocked for the bartenders. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t seen his fair share of intoxicated ridiculousness.

“I once saw a kid in the back area with all the garbage try to crawl underneath that fence and through all the garbage to try and get in,” he said. “I don’t know why anybody would go that far to try and cut the line. It was disgusting. The best part was that we had to kick the kid out after going through all that.”

At the end of the day, any student can wait in line to the bar and have their ID and five dollar cover ready, but if you don’t pass the true guardian of the bar, the carder, the night is over a little earlier than expected. Chuka Aguanunu, junior in ACES, is the carder at Firehaus, and he won’t hesitate to take away suspicious IDs.

“I’m really good at judging fake IDs,” he said. “We work together with Champaign and campus police to keep fake IDs out. We’re known for being one of the better bars at keeping fake IDs out.”

According to Aguanunu, being the carder can make a long shift pretty entertaining.

“The question game is fun,” he said. “If the picture doesn’t look like them, we’ll ask if they have two or three other cards with their name on it.”

The Firehaus employees then tell that person that they will hold on to the ID and they can come back with more forms, but they usually never come back for it.

“Another question we try to ask is instead of asking for their whole address, we’ll ask what street they live on,” Aguanunu said. “If they say the whole thing and it’s rehearsed and memorized, it usually says that its somebody else’s ID. If I asked a friend what street they live on, they would say just the street, not the whole address.”

Doormen are required to take a class to help them identify the difference between fake and real IDs and take a closer look if something seems suspicious. After the card is taken, however, is when the real trouble can begin.

“It depends on the person,” Aguanunu said. “I’ve gotten a lot of people who try to fight me, but I just walk away back into the bar, and they can’t come in (the bar) so they leave. And then there are people who are like ‘alright I got caught,’ and some will try to buy their ID back.”

But the worst decision people make is to linger.

“Some say they aren’t leaving (without their ID) and that’s when we have to call the cops,” Aguanunu said.