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Feature - Playing by the rules

Under the spotlight, Whistler clubs express some of their frustrations

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Schweighardt has been general manager of Bill’s for eight years and he has seen a lot of changes over those years. While Bill’s is perceived as primarily a tourist bar, Schweighardt is aware of the role the nightclub industry plays within the wide community.

"We don’t often get a lot of locals coming into Bill’s," says Schweighardt. "But I try to encourage locals to come in and enjoy what we have to offer. People who don’t go out anymore have lost touch with the club community and they don’t understand what goes on. They think that there is a big drug problem, which is not true, and they think that Whistler’s club scene is violent, which is also not true. I’d like to see people who don’t come to the bars come out sometime and have a drink and see what really goes on."

What really goes on is a community of people working very hard to provide both locals and tourists with a great experience. They do this through the busy times and they do this through the slow times. The nightclub industry in Whistler is different from most in that there is a real sense of community. The general managers meet every month to talk about what’s going on. At night, managers are in constant contact with each other to ensure that any problems, or problem people, are reported straight away. Doormen from one club will assist doormen from another club when problems do break out – which sometimes they do.

This spring saw the now annual influx of Lower Mainland groups cashing in on cheap hotel deals and bringing their brand of violence and intimidation with them. It’s a level of violence most Whistler doormen are not trained for and not paid enough to deal with. The perception was the violence was the clubs’ fault – they were over serving and encouraging rowdiness. It wasn’t true.

"The police blame certain things on the bars, like violence in the village, but it is not the bars’ fault, it’s the hotels that let them drink in the hotel rooms, walk around the hotels drinking and then they walk through the streets drinking," says Roberts. "We can’t control that. We control our door, I have great doormen and we try to keep the riff raff out and the intoxicated people out."

But as Tommy Africa’s found out, doing a good job controlling your door can easily backfire. In spring of this year, on a Monday night – Tommy’s biggest night, a group of Abbotsford youths were denied entry because the doormen felt they could cause problems. The group harassed the lineup out the front of the door to such an extent the doormen were forced to move everybody inside for their own safety. They then locked the front doors. What happened next was erroneously reported in local papers – a gun was never fired. The group threw rocks at the club and brandished a gun. Police later apprehended the suspects in their hotel room, where they'd been drinking that night.