Iconic Hillcrest Nightclub The Rail has implemented the use of metal detectors for entry in an effort to keep their staff, patrons and community safe. The decision has had mixed reactions from the community, most saying “safer is better”.
In the wake of increased hate crimes and mass shootings across the country, namely the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs, it is the hope that other nightlife establishments will follow suit and increase their own security measures.
In between his many media requests on the matter, we sat down with The Rails General Manager Wesley Bullen and asked him a few more questions on the matter:
Tell our readers a little bit about you and how you ended up as General Manager of The Rail?
I have been working at The Rail since March 2019, started out as a daytime bartender and would fill in on nights when needed until COVID happened. After our 15-month closure, we finally reopened and I was lucky enough to be brought back to work. Since we were only open at night at the time, I was finally able to bartend at nighttime where all the action was at. I unexpectedly became GM in January 2022 due to unforeseen circumstances. It’s a position I didn’t really see myself in at the time, but I gave it a shot and hoped for the best. Nearly a year later, I am extremely happy where I am at, the progress our bar is making, and on the personal side, it changed my life for the better. This position keeps me busy and constantly on my toes, with new challenges and learning experiences.
How did the decision to use metal detectors come to be and what is the general response?
Considering the Club Q tragedy, it was a reminder that we still have many bridges to cross to keep our safe spaces, safe. We were all on high alert after Pulse Orlando happened. Many questions on what actions bars are going to take to keep their patrons safe. The Rail management purchased the wand and started using that as an extra security step. Like every LGBTQ bar, the heightened awareness kind of faded off over time. Club Q was a reminder of how we really can’t let our guard down, clearly we have not crossed that bridge of maintaining our safe spaces yet. Friday, November 25th, I decided we need to bring back our heightened sense of awareness and keep the extra security step of metal detector wanding in place for the foreseeable future. The response for this last weekend, was nothing but positive. There was no pushback from anyone, no one walked away because of it. Many “thank yous” and appreciation for this happening. So, I feel this is a welcomed step by our community.
Have you seen an increase in incidents of unruly or violent behavior in the past year?
As far as The Rail goes, we have not had any major issues happen in which the security guards could not handle easily. There has been no violence or threats of violence from the outside or patrons. Of course, the occasional fight will break out, but that is expected at any bar. We’ve been lucky these issues have been very seldom. As far as Hillcrest wide, I do unfortunately hear of issues happening at other bars that escalate to violence and that is coming with a major shift in clientele happening across the neighborhood. I think this uptick has exponentially increased post COVID. Before COVID, the issues our community is facing now, weren’t nearly as problematic pre-COVID. We were just a calm and quiet community that just wanted to go out and have fun with no worries then. The change post COVID is worrisome and getting to a point where feeling “safe” in our establishments isn’t happening anymore.
How has the nightlife changed since the infamous “COVID lock down of 2020”?
Nightlife since reopening from COVID I feel has gone somewhat back to “normal” outside what I already mentioned. I applaud all the establishments in Hillcrest that took all the proper precautions in keeping patrons safe from COVID as best as they could. However, I do feel like COVID may have changed peoples’ nightlife habits. I know it changed mine. I don’t go out as much as I used to, even though I live just steps away from bars. #1 Fifth Avenue was my “home bar” in the past. It’s always been a welcoming place with friendly staff, still is. It’s now rare that I go there or any bar “just to go” anymore since reopening. If COVID didn’t happen, I think I’d still be in the same nightlife routine of going out. I feel the same may have happened to a lot of others as well. I know of many like me.
Do you have a network of other nightlife Managers and Security personnel that you communicate with?
I have an amazing support network with other bar managers and/or owners. Having not been in a position of this capacity before, they have been more than helpful with coaching, advice, and how to deal with situations. I am beyond thankful for their support and new or continuing friendships. With #1, The Rail, and The Loft just being within blocks of each other, we look out for one another and pass along information of security, unruly patrons we had to remove, and whatnot. I am in contact pretty much weekly with Dave and Rikke in some form. The security guards for #1 and The Rail know each other well and they pass along the same information within each other. Sometimes they know of something before I do. So, I think this is definitely comaraderie between us, even though we are competitors. The safety for each other and our bars far outweigh competition. For that, I am truly thankful for them. Our community needs to stick together in keeping it safe and do whatever we can to keep it that way.