R.I.P. Frank Navarro.
The imposing dude who mans the stool at the door of the neighborhood watering hole might be known by any number of names. He could be a “bouncer,” a “doorman” or even a “cooler.” He is a familiar face to regulars and a mean mug staring down the rowdy and intoxicated.
Unfortunately, sometimes rabblerousers do more than just stare back. And when violence erupts at the club, the job of private security takes a sudden left turn—moving from the monotonous task of checking IDs and stamping hands to the kinetic and chaotic role of public defender.
This is exactly where Frank Navarro found himself in the early hours of Sunday morning, while he worked the door of Tres Gringos nightclub on South Second Street in downtown San Jose.
Early accounts of the incident suggest that a man who was upset at being denied entry to the bar pulled out a knife and stabbed Navarro before fleeing the scene. Navarro died at the hospital shortly thereafter. Information is still emerging in relation to this story. Two men have been arrested and charged with murder in connection with the stabbing.
Details of what led up to the tragedy will continue to trickle out in the coming weeks, but what those working in the nightlife industry do know is that while a night on the town is often a good time for patrons, it is hard work for everyone on shift—and for those working the door, it can be dangerous.
“You gotta be cautious,” says Alesana Ulu, who works security at the The Ritz live music venue and dance club in San Jose’s SoFA district. He says a good bouncer needs to be aware of his surroundings at all times. “You know when trouble is coming. It’s pretty much a sense.”
Ulu has known Navarro since he was a kid. The two grew up running the bases together in San Jose’s Eastridge Little League. They’d kept in touch through their overlapping nightlife industry circles and through youth baseball. Both men coach Little League and Navarro had recently taken over as president of the Eastridge league where he played as a boy. “He devoted his whole life to baseball,” he says. It seems Navarro was dedicated to his security job, as well.
Navarro was a “people person,” Ulu says. “Whatever he did, he always made sure the next person was OK.”
These are the marks of a top-notch front-of-house security manager, according to Andrew Moyco, manager of San Jose’s BackBar SoFa live music venue and nightclub.
“Door guys are pretty important for the clubs,” Moyco says. At BackBar, security staff check IDs and frisk all people entering the bar, looking for weapons. But it’s more than that. “Door guys are the first people you encounter when you go to a club. I always tell my guys: ‘Treat people equally and fairly. Be cordial.’ It’s an unsung job at the bar.”
However unsung, it is a job many in the industry have done. Like the bar backs schlepping ice and refilling the well for bartenders, the job of doorman can be the first step toward landing a coveted spot behind the bar, pouring drinks and collecting the tips that come with them.
Moyco worked with Navarro back in his days of tending bar at the Voodoo Lounge. “Frank was a quality guy,” he says, recalling time spent with Navarro. “You gotta hire quality guys.”
Ulu agrees. “He’s always been a good dude to us and a positive guy in our circle,” he says.
Navarro’s family has started a GoFundMe page to help raise money for his funeral. You can donate to that fund by clicking here.