Mediating Access: The Utilization of Status Evaluation Processes in the Work of Bouncing

Sarah McLennan-Dillabough


Evaluative processes play a central role in our social world. These processes are especially salient in the work of bouncing, the work carried out by security staff at establishments licensed to serve alcohol. Bouncers have the power to admit or deny patrons who seek admittance to bars and nightclubs. Although the continual evaluation of patrons’ statuses (including their social status, race, and age) is common in this line of work, little sociological research has focused on these processes. Using interviews and participant observations, this article provides a grounded theory study that aims to expand the sociological knowledge about evaluative processes in the work of bouncing. This article argues that bouncers rely on socially constructed stereotypes in their evaluations of patron attitude and dress, associating certain attitudes and dress with violent behaviour. Bouncers’ reliance on status characteristic stereotypes systematically excludes classes and races of patrons who are perceived to have characteristics associated with violence.


status evaluation processes; bouncing; licensed establishments; status characteristics; stereotypes; visual and behavioural status characteristics; systematic exclusion; class-based assumptions; bribery; grounded theory

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Copyright (c) 2013 Sarah McLennan-Dillabough


This journal is published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 Unported License.


ISSN 1923-1334 (Online)

University of Victoria