Philip DeGraffenreid is the ultimate gatekeeper. Well, at least on the Drake University bar scene, he is.
The Drake senior has worked the door at Peggy’s Tavern for the last four months and has seen his fair share of fake IDs, fraternity-style fun and even some frisky customers on the job.
“On Saturday night, I was just sitting here,” he gestured to the black stool that serves as his perch, desk or throne, depending on how the night’s going, three evenings a week. “There was this couple making out in a booth, and people started throwing ice at them.”
But this was nothing unusual for the pub-like venue. The employees throw ice at each other, too, so do many of the regulars.
DeGraffenreid said it’s a playful environment and a pretty sweet gig “because I get to work and I’m surrounded by all my friends.”
“We’re like a family in here,” he said. And the band of Peggy’s employees really does interact like siblings. They play together, but they also protect each other. DeGraffenreid talked about his coworkers like an older brother proclaiming he’s the only one who gets to mess with them.
“I’ve thrown people out before for messing with the bartenders,” he said. “That is one thing we do not accept.”
They don’t accept bad fake IDs, either. Turning people away is one of the harder parts of the psychology and philosophy student’s job. On a typical night, he’ll sit just inside the bright red tavern door and hold up forms of identification — good and bad — under a bright desk lamp, like the kind you see stomping out the ‘I’ in the Pixar logo. He’s seen some pretty shady IDs, some showing some semblance to that of a seven-year-old’s arts and crafts project.
“The worst ID I’ve seen (was when) someone just drew a picture on a white piece of paper. They didn’t even bother to laminate it with packing tape,” he said. He’s seen photos taped to gift cards and worse, but he says he tries to run a tight ship. He takes his post seriously.
“You can’t feel bad when someone expects to get in. It’s my job to keep Peggy’s accountable, as well as the patrons,” DeGraffenreid said.
Emily, whose didn’t want to disclose her last name, has known the bar to be strict about its policy for not letting underage customers in.
“This time that I got my ID taken away was really the worst time,” she said, referencing a fake. “The door guy looks at me and he’s like, ‘Yeah, so, uh, what’s your address?’ I was blank.”
In the cozy, college bar, many of her friends from school saw this happen, and she had to face them the next day in class. She got mad at the bouncer, and remembers calling her mom after the incident.
Emily stated later that it’s “definitely not impossible” to get into the bar with a fake ID.
But Emily, now 21, has had great, grape-bomb-drenched experiences at Peggy’s, which she describes as a “chaotic, hectic circus”, particularly with DeGraffenreid.
“He’s my favorite bouncer. He’s so nice, and knows me by name,” she said.
DeGraffenreid pulled at the bill of his baseball cap and said that he does his best to be really positive while working the door, though busy nights can make it tricky. Luckily, he’s a bit of a bouncing veteran. He worked the door at a bar called Kanza Hall in Overland Park, Kansas — his hometown. He is now a pro who knows who to welcome and who’ll have to use Bordy’s as a backup.
Amanda Perkins-Kelly, the owner and bouncer at West End Lounge, located just a few blocks west of Peggy’s, described working the door at a college bar as an invigorating – and only occasionally irritating – venture.
“You see some crazy things working the door. Once I saw a naked tennis player run by,” Perkins-Kelly said. “I love it.”
To Perkins-Kelly, the person working the door has power. They keep the bar safe and they keep the bar fun while keeping an eye out for underage students who can’t handle their alcohol. Perkins- Kelly tried not to get cheesy, narrowly avoiding a “with great power comes great responsibility” line, but settled on this tip.
“You are 100 percent responsible when you’re working the door to check every ID,” Perkins-Kelly said. “You’re the most important person in the bar.”
DeGraffenreid gets that. He understands the gravity of his position, and he understands that a lot can ride on him doing his job right.
“I was actually training someone last night,” DeGraffenreid said. “You let them know that they are the first and only line of defense for the bar, and that seems to put it into perspective.”