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People Talk: Bouncer flexes sinews of patience at his job

Paul “PJ” Colvin Jr. has what it takes to be the perfect bouncer. He is 6 foot 1 and weighs a solid 280 pounds, but Colvin’s job as doorman at Exchange on Allen Street requires more than muscle. Colvin brings patience and street smarts to work with him every night. One of four children, Colvin was raised on Newburgh Street on the city’s East Side. He said he was scrawny until he discovered the weight room when he was at Emerson High School. Since then, working out has become a part of life for this 25-year-old.

Colvin ultimately wants to work as a New York state trooper, just like his father. For now, he works at a construction job during the day and as a bar bouncer at night. We asked him to weigh in on the bar scene, as well as the recent bid to close bars two hours earlier in Erie County.

People Talk: What time do you see people most inebriated?

Paul Colvin: At any given time throughout the night. People will be stumbling out as I’m coming in at 10 o’clock. I guess if people have to work early the next day, they get drunk earlier the night before. I see people slaughtered at 10, 2 and 4. But I’ll actually see the drunkest probably around 3. That’s when the bar starts to clear so you can actually tell if someone stumbles. If it’s packed, they’re bouncing off other people.

PT: Do you call them a cab?

PC: Oh no. They’re drunk. Once they’re out the gate they’re not our problem. Our job is to secure the premises, not to make sure every drunk person gets home safe. That would be ridiculous.

PT: What do you say to residents who complain that bars ruin their quality of life?

PC: Allen Street has been Allen Street for a long time. So if you decide to move there and you’re going to complain about the noise, I think you may be a little disturbed.

PT: The proposal to close bars earlier was shot down. What do you think?

PC: I’m torn. Some days I’m at work and look at the clock, and it’s only 2, and I think I’ve got to stay two more hours. Other days I’m wide awake. This is Buffalo. People are going to drink no matter what.

PT: What are the job requirements for a bouncer?

PC: You need to be licensed as a security guard. That requires on-the-job training as well as an eight-hour class. If you want to cuff somebody, you have to be registered to carry cuffs. I never used them. Most drunk people are belligerent but they listen to reason – with a slight intimidation factor.

PT: As a bouncer, what do you look for?

PC: I mostly listen. Nobody actually swings first. There’s normally a nice little argument beforehand, some shoving and then the fight. As long as you can catch them yelling, you’ll be good to go.

PT: What makes you a good bouncer?

PC: I have extreme patience. My friends never see me mad. It takes a lot. I don’t stress over tense situations. I’m totally calm because I’ve seen it so many times.

PT: What other jobs have you worked?

PC: I worked with juvenile delinquents as a residential counselor. I grew up in a rough neighborhood so I feel for the kids. It was amazing helping kids.

PT: Who is your role model?

PC: My dad is the reason I am the person I am. We’re like twins. ... If we ever got in trouble for something serious, he said we were on our own. Just hearing him say that instilled a certain kind of fear.

PT: Did you get in a lot of fights?

PC: Not anymore. When I was younger in high school I did. When I first started lifting weights, I didn’t have any discipline. I was fighting everybody. But then I grew up. First, I could go to jail. Second, why would I waste my time? It’s not worth it at all. I don’t want to hurt my knuckles or your face.