Be a Bouncer? Essential Facts about What’s Involved in the Job


Bouncers are employed at bars, nightclubs, strip clubs, concerts and other places needing security guards. The duties of a bouncer typically include checking IDs for legal age. Prohibiting entry to substance-impaired people. Dealing with aggressive or otherwise unacceptable behavior. And, in general, providing safety and security to patrons and other employees.

Contrary to popular myth, bouncers can’t simply beat up people who are causing problems. A bouncer’s behavior is limited by law. Often the presence of a bouncer is enough to deter patrons from unacceptable behavior. Most bouncers deal with situations through verbal communication.

Bouncers may legally:

  • Check IDs.
  • Refuse entry to people who are too young, too intoxicated, or who are known not  to follow establishment policies.
  • Issue warnings.
  • Require patrons to leave.
  • Use reasonable force to remove patrons from premises.
  • Defend themselves with physical force.
  • Break up fights.
  • Protect innocent bystanders from violence.
  • Detain with reasonable force people committing a crime.

Unless approached with physical threats of harm, bouncers may not:

  • Strike a patron.
  • Restrain anyone with a chokehold, “joint lock”, or other technique.
  • Use any weapon or pepper spray.

Books about Bouncers & Being a Bouncer

Chambers, S. Beyond The Velvet Ropes. Cork: BookBaby, 2012. (Biography)

Holmes, D. Little Fist. The True Story of a Female Bouncer. Fremantle, W.A.: Vivid, 2015.

bouncerLander, H. The Bouncer. Lane Cove: Finch, 2014. (Biography)

National Nightclub Security Council. Bouncer Training Guide. LuLu, 2015

Styliqnou, S. and Hancock, D. Stilks. London: John Blake, 2002. (Biography)

Thompson, G. On the Door. Chichester: Summersdale, 1994.

California Bouncers

A number of serious abuses by bouncers led California to require every bouncer to be a Proprietary Private Security Officer (PSO). (Exceptions are listed below.) A PSO is someone who is unarmed, employed only by a single employer, and whose primary duty is to provide security services for that one employer.

Unlicensed bouncers in California, even with employer approval, face fines of up to $5,000.

A PSO must (1) wear a distinctive uniform clearly identifying the individual as a security officer, and (2) be likely to interact with the public while on the job.

Such officers must be adults (that is, be at least 18 years of age). They must have a criminal history background check through the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI. People with criminal convictions are not excluded from applying. Registration decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

PSOs must carry a valid and current PPSO registration card, or a copy of official approval. However, a PSO may not carry a deadly weapon.

A PSO is required to complete 16 hours of training in security officer skills. This training consists of two hours of Powers to Arrest, two hours of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Terrorism Awareness, and twelve hours of other security related content. The course syllabus is on-line at Training Syllabus, Proprietary Private Security Officers.


People who may work as a bouncer in California without being a PSO include these.

  • An officer or employee of the US, of California, or of one of the State’s political subdivision.
  • A patrol special police officer.
  • An officer or employee of a charitable philanthropic nonprofit incorporated in California.
  • A peace officer or retired peace officer.


Frequently Asked Questions. Proprietary Private Security Officer (PSO). California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services.

Bill Analysis. Legislative Information.

Note: This website is informational only. Its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. It does not make or imply any legal advive. Always consult a qualified lawyer for current legal opinion .