The night of the beating, the beach bar pulsed with drunken euphoria. It was well past midnight on that cool December evening last year, a moment for celebration for two Canadians who ambled inside Dirty Blondes. One of the men, Erik Kormos, a yacht captain, had just gotten engaged to marry, so he and his friend Ernesto Palij, a chef, barhopped through this throbbing row of bars along A1A near its intersection with Las Olas Boulevard. Now, nestled into chairs around the bar, they ordered what would be the first of many drinks.
One hour melted into the next. Then, around 4 a.m., the two friends heard screaming and stepped outside to investigate. There, in an alley, two women — short skirts, messy hair, bloodied — thrashed at each other with nails and knuckled fists.
"Yo, man, do your job!" the 42-year-old Palij remembers yelling at a nearby bouncer standing at the melee's edge. "They're going to kill each other! Do something!"
Bouncers Beat Patrons, and Cops Look the Other Way
The bouncer's fist struck Palij like an atomic bomb. Palij collapsed on the pavement, he says, his head narrowly missing a nearby railing. Several Dirty Blondes bouncers swarmed his crumpled form.
"No!" Kormos says he screamed, rushing forward to push one of the security men, who turned his glare upon Kormos' five-foot-nine frame. The yacht captain sprinted away. The bouncers abandoned Palij and took off after Kormos.
He didn't make it far, a police report shows. Just 20 yards north of the bar, near Las Olas Boulevard's end, Kormos tripped. Then, for the next 30 seconds to several minutes, the five bouncers worked him over, claims Kormos, 36. "The guy knocked me in the back of the head, and I went down unconscious. Then I woke up, and they were kicking me in the stomach, in the ribs, in the balls, in my head. Five guys on one. They just wanted to kill someone that night."
"Stay down!" one of the bouncers yelled, Kormos recalls. "The cops are coming for you!" But when Fort Lauderdale Police arrived 15 minutes later, the bouncers had scattered and Dirty Blondes was shuttered. Wanting to forget it ever happened, Kormos declined to press charges or file suit, and police investigation into the incident ended right there and then. "The cops," he says, "just brushed it off like this happens all the time."
Dirty Blondes, a Spartan beachfront bar populated by bikini-clad tourists and pool tables, has long been one of the most popular beach spots in South Florida. But in July, a countervailing narrative emerged after a violent video shot outside Dirty Blondes ignited outrage from Miami to London. In that 15-second clip, three bouncers attacked two men in a scene as animalistic as it was short. While a bouncer thrust one of the men, David Parker, into a headlock, another bouncer sucker-punched the second patron, Alex Coelho. He crashed to the beer-splattered pavement, where that same bouncer stomped on his head. The beaten men fled but returned soon to the bar, only to be cuffed. Arresting officer Mark DeCarlo, who works off-duty at nearby Exit 66, dispatched a report bereft of details involving the violence.
Dirty Blondes, hammered on social and local media, immediately went into crisis control. The bar deposited a hasty apology calling the assault an "isolated incident." And Fort Lauderdale Police spokesperson DeAnna Greenlaw called the video "disturbing" and urged Coelho to volunteer a statement.
But a New Times investigation has found that this altercation was anything but isolated and that when such assaults occur, local police have every incentive to protect the bouncers because of an undefined — and lucrative — off-duty policy. Taxpapers provide the cars, gasoline, uniforms, training, and guns that enable cops to take off-duty but uniformed freelance work at bars. But unlike some other local agencies, the Fort Lauderdale Police Department doesn't track how much money or what gifts cops haul in during this work. On the beach, some cops can make as much as $600 per week, one source estimates, and such cash can perhaps sway a cop's allegiances. Nine people who experienced or witnessed bouncers pummel patrons say responding cops either didn't reprimand the bar or filed a report that misrepresented events.
And all nine of those people saw it happen at bars owned by two Israeli-born men named AJ Yaari and Lior Avidor, who, in terms of sheer sweep, are perhaps the two most important men on Fort Lauderdale Beach. They own a king's swath of the beachfront: Dirty Blondes, Exit 66, Rock Bar, Sangria's Cafe, Spazio, St. Bart's Coffee, and the forthcoming Tsukuro. Since March 2009, according to police reports, county civil records, and dozens of interviews, security personnel at these establishments have beaten at least 21 patrons in 16 separate incidents. Excluding the now-infamous July incident, which slapped bouncer Arnald Thomas-Darrah with one count of felony assault, only one bouncer has faced charges, court records show.
"The bars own these cops, and that is all there is to it," explains a former high-ranking city official who requested anonymity. "Money talks. These bars buy protection like a Mafia operation. And if any violations come, they have their sentinel out there who's protecting them from the government."
The sometimes-shocking stories of violence, not to mention their number, lay bare a little-recognized problem in one of the nation's most iconic beach spots.
"What you saw in that video happens every day," one current Dirty Blondes bouncer remarked. "That one was just caught on video."
On February 25 this year, a slight, somewhat taciturn New Yorker named Joe Viscomi had just landed in Fort Lauderdale for a wedding when he took a walk down A1A. On that cloudless night, he'd expected to find a bunch of college kids having a good time. Instead, in front of Dirty Blondes, he spotted a bouncer, whom he later described as an "enraged animal," deliver a devastating punch to a scrawny 21-year-old.
Another witness recalled that the bouncer kicked the young man in the side of the head, according to a police report. The youth, David Harris (who couldn't be reached for comment for this article) stood and stumbled away. The bouncer, a 250-pound redheaded juggernaut named Albert Wareham, lumbered after him.
"Then all of a sudden," Viscomi remembers now, "the kid's getting four more blows to the head and his face is getting all distorted and he's screaming." During the scrum, a police report says, the young man's phone fell out of his pocket, and the bouncer stomped on it.
Just then, Viscomi says, a cop approached the scene to confront Wareham. The officer analyzed the youth's battered face, then swiveled his gaze to look at the bouncer. "This time," Viscomi heard the cop admonishing Wareham, "you've gone too far."
Wareham, who was charged with simple battery, initially denied striking Harris to police, claiming he saw the younger man try to use drugs in the restroom. He later admitted he punched Harris because he felt "threatened" and then chased after him because "he didn't know if he had a weapon," the incident report says.
Viscomi, 63 and a resident of upstate New York, expressed bewilderment last month that cops charged Wareham with only one offense. "One charge?" he gasped. "This was first-degree assault in my opinion. There were two witnesses who saw the whole thing, and no one has contacted me from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department since. They acted like they wanted to protect the bouncers. I mean, this kid was defenseless. He was beat up for sport."
A similar refrain often emerged among the 16 incidents of bouncer-inflicted violence that New Times discovered in part through an analysis of 37 assault or battery police reports at the establishments since 2009. (Neighboring Elbo Room, meanwhile, was the site of 13 batteries, two aggravated assaults, and one attempted murder during that time, though a delay in obtaining police records made it impossible to determine how many of those incidents involved bouncers.) Indeed, perhaps the most striking aspect of these examples is their similarity. According to 11 police reports, three civil suits, and two additional altercations corroborated by multiple witnesses, it goes down like this: A patron does something to vex a bouncer, like flashing a pocket light, flirting with a bartender, clandestinely filling a glass from a soda gun. In other cases, the patron claims to have done nothing at all. Then, without warning, bouncers attack the reveler. Sometimes, the victim is left with a few bruises. Sometimes, substantially more.
On August 28, 2010, a raven-haired Joshua Wright was about to leave Exit 66, a cavernous nightclub that has a capacity of 1,200, when his friend went to use the bathroom. When the friend emerged, Wright cast a key-chain laser light on his friend when a bouncer referred to only as "Josh" in a pending lawsuit Wright filed in Broward County slammed Wright with a fist. Court documents show the bouncer "mistook" the flashlight for a gun. After Wright fell to the ground, another bouncer kicked him, Wright says. The medical fallout was immense: four broken ribs, a fractured eye orbital, eight stitches, and two back surgeries to mend a herniated and ruptured disc in his lower back. (Exit 66 disputes Wright's allegations.)
"My friend was standing a few feet away and witnessed all of it, but the police on private duty seemed to know the bouncers," Wright tells New Times. "He didn't mention anything about pressing criminal charges against 'Josh' or the bouncer who kicked me."
Next door and more than a year later at Rock Bar, barrel-chested 38-year-old boat salesman Brian Hoynowski sauntered inside wearing slacks and a button-down he'd bought at Tommy Bahama. It was near 11 p.m. on October 25, 2011, and Hoynowski had arrived that afternoon for the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show the next day. If he played it right, he'd fly home to Orange Beach, Alabama, with tens of thousands of dollars. He was thinking about the potential money at stake when he went hunting for the bathroom at Rock Bar.
"If you want to piss here, you have to order a drink," Hoynowski remembers a bouncer telling him.
"What the fuck are you talking about, man?" Hoynowski replied, laughing.
"So I turned my head to walk out, and the next thing I knew I was clocked," Hoynowski remembers. "Freaking clocked. One of the bouncers grabbed my arms, and another one got three punches in on me. I fell to the ground, and three of them started kicking me in the head, the ribs. They broke my ribs. I needed six stitches above my eye, and I have permanent scarring."
After he got out of the hospital the next morning, he filed a statement with police. The report says he "admitted that he was very intoxicated" and had "refused to leave the bar." Police didn't pursue an investigation and miswrote his last name as "Bartow." Hoynowski, who never made it to the boat show, denies he told police he was drunk. That misstatement, he charges, ruined his chance to file a civil lawsuit.
A similar thing happened to Paul Karpowicz just a few weeks later at Dirty Blondes, on November 21. The 47-year-old with a ponytail said he and a buddy were sitting at the bar, and Karpowicz had to drive home, so he was swilling water. After a few cups, the bartender became distracted with someone else, so Karpowicz grabbed the water gun himself.
"A bouncer choked me from behind, and I went unconscious," says Karpowicz, who today lives in Atlanta. "He broke my larynx. Two millimeters lower, he would have crushed my throat and I would have died. Then two guys came up and were kicking and punching me and left me outside, bloody and unconscious."
Moments later, two cops pulled up, lights flashing, according to both Karpowicz and his friend Rick Bodiford, who was present that night. The men wanted to press charges. "Then another cop showed up," recalls Bodiford, 41. "He walked straight up to the bouncers and then told us if we didn't leave right away, we were arrested. It was the most bizarre thing that ever happened to me."
The police report from the incident says Karpowicz was "highly intoxicated" and "argumentative" and had threatened to "kick ass." Both he and Bodiford vociferously deny that.
"That's absolutely not true!" Bodiford now exclaims. Karpowicz says he sought legal counsel, but the description of him in the police report thwarted any opportunity to file a civil lawsuit.
Similarities teem among further tales of bouncer-inflicted violence. According to allegations made in police reports and court records:
• On March 16, 2009, a Dirty Blondes bouncer suddenly "walked over and punched Charles Dunham in the eye" while he was talking to a girl, sober. Dunham said he "told several officers, but nothing was done."
• On November 28, 2009, Dirty Blondes bouncer Brandon Gilbert thrust Ryan McGlynn into a full nelson, and McGlynn "began to turn purple and lose consciousness." McGlynn, who was accused of confronting another customer, hit his jaw on the ground, and patrons surrounded the fallen man, "trying to clean up the blood," the bouncer said in a deposition. (A civil lawsuit was settled late last month, attorney Robert Gluck said, for an astounding $280,000.)
• On October 25, 2010, an "unknown male employee" at Rock Bar "choked" Valdevir Camargo, "dragged him outside, dislocated his shoulders, and kicked him" after Camargo questioned the charges on his bill. (A civil lawsuit was settled for $14,000.)
• On April 17, 2011, an "unknown [Dirty Blondes] bouncer came up to Heather Benson and for no reason grabbed her by the neck, picked her up, and threw her on the ground."
• On August 15, 2011, John Guerrero "was grabbed from behind by an [Exit 66] bouncer and put in a choke hold. The bouncer hit him in the face with an object, possibly a flashlight, breaking his right front tooth." Guerrero told police he didn't know why the bouncer attacked him.
• On June 11, 2012, Charles Palmer saw three Dirty Blondes bouncers "beating on a subject in the street, who was not fighting back and trying to get away..." All three bouncers then began punching and kicking Palmer while he was on the ground. Palmer's nose was broken.
• On February 12, 2012, Dirty Blondes bouncers "attacked" Richard Nar "as he left to return to his vehicle... Several individuals punched Nar multiple times as well as kicked him."
• On April 16 of this year, a "suspect, possibly a bouncer" at Dirty Blondes, "pushed Kenneth O'Brien to the ground and struck him in the face... He was unable to sign [the police report] because he was covered in blood."
On a recent Sunday evening, Arturo Suarez bristled with disgust at the violence. The manager of Cafe del Mar, a yawning chasm of an eatery wedged between folkloric Elbo Room and Dirty Blondes, said it didn't used to be this way. "How does this affect the entire beach?" he wondered. "The fights, the ugliness, the kicking, the punching — I don't want that garbage overflowing into my place. People get the impression it's not safe here anymore. And that's my business."
He paused for a moment. "All I have to say [to the owners] is keep your shit contained... When the fish is bad, it smells from the head."
But Cafe del Mar isn't just a random neighbor. There's a history between the businesses.
"Things got ugly," Suarez says.
On January 5, 2009, a restaurateur with wavy brown hair and a deep tan named Leone Padula strode into Cafe del Mar. Soon, he spotted one of his two business partners, Lior Avidor, a bald man built like a stonemason. This would not be a pleasant gathering.
"I'll cut you to pieces," Avidor told Padula, according to a restraining order Padula filed against the larger man. "I'll break you. I'll tear out your kidneys. I'll put you in the same condition as your [terminally ill] father."
Padula melted into rage. According to a competing restraining order Avidor filed, Padula grabbed a nearby glass and warned, "I'm going to cut your throat." The incensed Italian pressed the glass against Avidor's nose, until witnesses wrenched him free. "I'm going to kill you," he told Avidor. Minutes later, Padula, screaming, again thrust the glass into Avidor's face.
The next day, Avidor claimed he thought Padula might attack him with a gun, and he feared for his life. "I did not do anything to provoke" Padula, he said.
This climactic confrontation had seeds deep in the past. Avidor, 45, who speaks in a low guttural growl still flecked with his Israeli upbringing, grew up in Haifa, northern Israel's largest city. There, he told New Times in a brief chat, he met his future business partner A.J. Yaari "when we were boys." The men, who declined formal interviews, landed in Fort Lauderdale with an adroit sense of what it takes to conquer a beachside, tourist-driven economy: sex, alcohol, and aggression. They opened their first shops in the mid-1990s, each carrying a name that's almost a caricature of ocean-side existence. First came L&A on the Beach in 1993. Next was See the Sun. Finally, in 1995, they opened Sex Appeal Swimwear.
In 2001, Avidor met Padula, who had come to local prominence through his stewardship of Il Tartufo and Café Europa, successful Las Olas spots. Padula knew Avidor and Yaari only as two guys "selling T-shirts and screwing tourists," he recalls, when they hatched an ambitious plan that would enact a near-monopoly of the hottest strip of real estate in Broward County.
In 2004, after the businessmen opened Cafe del Mar, they inked another contract to open Spazio. Padula sank $350,000 into that restaurant and became a 50 percent shareholder, with Yaari and Avidor splitting the rest. Then, over the next three years, the men widened their sprawl: Rock Bar, Sangrias Café, Dirty Blondes, Exit 66 — all under the agreement that Padula act as "operating manager," according to a 2008 lawsuit Padula filed against his partners.
"Padula was a restaurateur," explains a person familiar with the agreement, who requested anonymity. "And [Yaari and Avidor] were not. As long as they had the agreement of Padula managing, they were fine."
But on November 12, 2008, Yaari and Avidor changed the locks on all of the restaurants, banned Padula from the establishments he once managed, and froze his pay, according to Padula's lawsuit, which alleged, among other claims, minority oppression and freeze-out.
One week later, on November 19, the men and their attorneys huddled in a conference room at a mirrored office building on Corporate Drive in Fort Lauderdale. During that conversation, like something out of a Rocky movie, Avidor stood up and, in an outburst of anger, announced he planned to "break [Padula] in two," according to a deposition of Avidor's attorney, Craig Sherman. Avidor, who was "animated, angry, loud," then said, "We're leaving," and he and Yaari stormed out. Afterward, in a civil lawsuit Avidor filed against Padula, he claimed the smaller man had attacked and threatened to kill him during that meeting.
The next day at Cafe del Mar, Padula alleged in a restraining order that Yaari "jumped on me and punched me in the face, saying [he wanted] to take my liver out."
Soon after, the partners split. They eventually signed a nondisclosure agreement and dismissed the lawsuits. Padula, who declined in a brief interview to specify what spurred the sudden fallout, got Cafe del Mar, and the Israelis netted the rest. In the chaotic aftermath, some staff were swept out under the new managers in what one former employee described as a "coup."
One afternoon in 2009 during those chaotic weeks, staff members filed into a conference room at Exit 66 and found a seat, according to two separate managers who were present. Seated before the confused employees were Yaari and Avidor. "They had time sheets for what everyone was owed," one manager remembers. "And they said, 'We're not paying you this.' One by one, we all had to negotiate what we were rightfully owed. It had been weeks since any of us had been paid."
John Guerrero, a floor manager at Exit 66 at the time, recalls that meeting vividly. "I said, 'Where's my check?' And they gave me this whole story. And it was pretty much, 'Either you take what we give you and still work for us. Or if not, goodbye.' When I came on, it was actually a functioning situation, but everything turned. It became a bunch of jacked-up dudes getting into fights, other guys getting sucker-punched for talking back to bouncers, and slutty girls getting wasted and doing drugs."
Also around this time, there was one more change. Avidor and Yaari began hiring off-duty cops to work security.
That Fort Lauderdale Police once again face criticism over their undefined off-duty detail policy shouldn't come as a surprise — least of all to the cops themselves.
They've known it poses problems since at least July 15, 2005. On that day, a New York-based investigative firm called Safir Rosetti castigated the policy in a report obtained by New Times.
Calling it an "integrity soft spot," Safir Rosetti had this to say: The "off-duty employment allows individual officers to negotiate any price above $25/hr they can with individual private business and use department resources (vehicles, boats, etc.) with no financial benefit to the city."
"Then Rothstein happened," remarked one former high-ranking city official, "and our worst nightmare happened."
It was late 2009, and Fort Lauderdale attorney Scott Rothstein, the fraud pharoah himself, had just been indicted for commanding a $1.2 billion Ponzi largesse. In quite possibly its most embarrassing episode to date, the Fort Lauderdale Police had been providing him with nearly 'round-the-clock protection with off-duty officers, endowing him with exactly what he wanted: an air of legitimacy. At $45 an hour, police guarded his tony Bova Prime restaurant, his law firm, and his gated, waterfront Fort Lauderdale mansion, where mystified neighbors espied cops "just hanging out not doing anything" and "sleeping," internal police memos show.
According to a federal criminal complaint against Rothstein, he dispensed "gratuities to high-ranking members of police agencies to curry favor and deflect law enforcement scrutiny." Rothstein took Police Chief Frank Adderley on his private jet to a football game and said he gave Sgt. Steven Greenlaw funds to purchase a diamond engagement ring at Daoud's Fine Jewelry. (Greenlaw, who later married current police spokesperson DeAnna Greenlaw, denied this.)
"It was beyond strange," Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein now tells New Times. "They were basically acting as a private security force. In return, they got money, watches, hookers, and breast implants. They protected a criminal conspiracy... Outrageous, even for Broward."
Incredibly, everyone kept his job. Steven Greenlaw was suspended without pay for three days.
In November 2010, in response to the Rothstein scandal, the bewildered department squeaked through a few changes to the policy. From then on, high-ranking officers couldn't take off-duty work, shifts were limited to ten hours, and cops couldn't guard private residences for 24 hours straight.
But to this day, the police department's off-duty policy still contains some of the same "soft spots" Safir Rosetti warned of.
At just six pages, the protocol requires cops to seek the police chief's approval before working at establishments that serve alcohol and forbids officers to take assignments while on sick leave. It allows them to work up to 80 total hours per week, or a mind-boggling 20 hours per day. "The employment must be dignified," the policy states. "And there can be no CONFLICT OF INTEREST."
But here's where it gets sticky. The policy lets individual cops bargain for their own pay. Once approved, it sets only a maximum hourly pay at "two and one half times the normal top pay step" of a patrol officer, which is $37.39. The duty of allocating the shifts falls to an informally chosen "detail coordinator" who one source says takes a 5.5 percent cut of all earnings. It's unclear from police documentation how, exactly, an officer procures the post of "detail coordinator."
"It's corruption," charges one former city official. "There's no doubt about it."
In contrast, the Broward County Sheriff's Office sets the rates and handles the payments for its off-duty deputies, and the Miami Police Department taxes $3 from every hour one of its officers works and tracks every dime.
If the Fort Lauderdale Police Department had such a regulation, it would be able to quantify, to the dollar, how much money police make at beachfront establishments owned by Yaari and Avidor. But as things stand now, it can't.
One company called Indemnity Insurance, which insures the Israeli-owned operation, also perceived potential problems in employing off-duty cops at bars. On January 14, 2011, company President Jeffrey Cohen sent A.J. Yaari a letter dropping his beachfront establishments from its insurance policy, alleging it had discovered "misrepresentations," "omissions," and "incorrect statements" in Yaari's insurance application.
Later, after Yaari's business sued the insurance company in Broward County federal court, Cohen lambasted him for claiming he didn't employ off-duty cops — when in fact he did. Cohen said an off-duty cop serves two masters: "the insured... and also the municipality he serves." (The trial court sided against Indemnity Insurance, ordering it to pay Yaari's company $35,000.)
Former managers at the Israeli beachfront establishments say cops are paid $35 an hour, in cash, at 4 a.m. "And they expect to get paid by 4:15," explained one former Exit 66 manager, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "It's very Mafia-style. When it's that much money, the cops do what we want. They're not going to start arresting employees or causing problems for a business that's paying them $600 per week."
Another manager recalls a frequent occurrence at bars owned by Yaari and Avidor. "If some kid walks into Dirty Blondes and bouncers sic on him and punch him in the face, the cop yells [at the patron], 'You need to leave!' And if he says, 'Wait a second, the bouncer just beat me up in there,' the cops aren't interested. It's in their interest to side to side with the bar in every altercation."
"Alex, if you love me, will you please stop?" the blond woman pleaded with the battered man. Her features twisted in alarm. He was just bleeding so much. She reached for his bare chest and sought his azure eyes hiding somewhere amid the crimson splashed across his face. "If you love me," Stephanie Parker murmured again, clutching his arm, "will you please stop?"
It was July 28, shortly after several Dirty Blondes bouncers had thrown Alex Coelho and David Parker to the ground and stomped on Coelho's face, slashing open his forehead. Now, as Mark DeCarlo, who's worked off-duty at Dirty Blondes, appeared, Coelho pushed past his girlfriend. Newly surfaced video shows Coelho pointing a blood-slicked hand at the bouncers and cop standing together.
A crowd swelled around the confrontation, murmuring with anticipation. Coelho approached the cop, a bald man with a stomach like a potbelly stove, and spoke urgently while friends held him back. Then the cop shoved Coelho, and the crowd, creeping closer to the ballooning conflict, bellowed.
Parker shrieked at the officer. "Are you serious? We were sitting here — and are you fucking kidding me? You don't mind us getting beat up by them?"
After Coelho again walked toward the bouncers, another officer appeared in the video, and the cops arrested Coelho for disorderly conduct and battery. One hour later, Parker was cited for disorderly conduct for "fighting with security" and resisting arrest. In the police report, DeCarlo claimed he "was trying to get information [from Coelho] as to what happened but he was so angry, he would not listen." He then alleged Coelho had "unprovoked... with both hands, pushed this officer in the chest." (The video appears to refute the latter allegation, and charges against Coelho have since been dismissed.)
The drama hit the beach like a flash squall. Midafternoon, the Tuesday after that Sunday brawl, the phone at Dirty Blondes wouldn't stop ringing. One man, who identified himself only as "a cousin" of Alex Coelho named "Laurence," dialed the bar more than ten times, vowing that he and some friends would soon "flip shit upside down," according to a police report.
But amid a cacophony of local and social media, several things quietly occurred. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department canceled its off-duty detail at Dirty Blondes. A.J. Yaari met with his beleaguered staff soon after city police arrested 29-year-old bouncer Arnald Thomas-Darrah on charges of felony assault. (Thomas-Darrah couldn't be reached for comment for this article.)
Yaari urged greater empathy for customers and ordered every staff member present not to speak to the media, according to two attendants. Then he dropped the news: He had fired the three bouncers involved in the grisly confrontation. Few thought the bouncers deserved to be fired. Not for that. The bouncers feel as though they're on the front line against hordes of unruly and often aggressive customers — and deserve a modicum of leniency.
One former manager agreed, saying, "You have to respect just how terrible the people on the Fort Lauderdale Beach are."
"They got persecuted for things that weren't out of line," said one bouncer who nonetheless expressed profound disdain for the violence of his job. "For two seconds of misjudgment, they look like bad people. Just because you lose a fight doesn't make you a victim."
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Indeed, everyone interviewed for this article wants more cops, who are better-resourced and better-trained than bouncers. "No one cares what a bouncer has to say, so thank God the cops are down here and get paid or else we'd be dead," one current Dirty Blondes doorman says. "These people down here, they are out of control, going day and night and don't even sleep."
Mayor Jack Seiler maintains that privately funded cops do tremendous good. "I'd like to see more off-duty details," he said when New Times questioned whether off-duty cops have done enough to hold aggressive bouncers accountable. "I haven't seen a single case where an officer has done a single thing improper."
At midnight on a Saturday late last month, as tourists mobbed most beach spots like Elbo Room and Rock Bar, Dirty Blondes, normally crazed at this point in the night, was dead. Bouncer Albert Wareham sighed at the front of the bar, a black security shirt stretched across his broad back. Months have passed since the auburn-haired man was charged with simple battery for allegedly following a 21-year-old patron out of the bar and delivering four crushing blows to his face. Though it was witnessed by two people and his trial is only weeks away, Wareham wasn't fired.
So for now, he quietly waits through his shift near the entrance, pale arms crossed, eyes swiveling across the bar.