When a muscular guy in a black suit walks into a bar in the middle of the afternoon, patiently scopes the place out, then gives the all-clear nod, drinkers take notice. They expect to see someone famous or more-than-famous, someone worth protecting and in need of protection. When security guard Nick Negusse—broad shoulders, a pugilist’s eyes, a slightly loosened tie—walked into Steins Beer Garden in less-than-raucous downtown Mountain View, all eyes were on his charge. That was me.
I hired Negusse through the on-demand security service Bannerman, which offers guards for individuals and businesses throughout the Bay Area. Muscle can be booked as little as 30 minutes in advance and can do everything from monitoring the door at your party to acting as a personal bodyguard—for just $35 hour.
“At $35 an hour you’re pretty much getting a bodyguard who used to do protection for Paris Hilton or Robin Thicke,” says co-founder Jonathan Chin. All the guards with the service have a valid license, which means they’ve passed background checks by both the FBI and the Department of Justice.
In the name of journalism, I booked Negusse to keep me safe while I had a few afternoon beers. I spent much of the time quietly hoping that someone would try his luck. The temptation to shout, “Giants suck!” or “Google’s stock is steadily declining!” to stir shit up was nearly overwhelming.
Booking took less than a minute using the company’s site—the new app has some bugs—requiring that I explain where I was, give a brief description of the task at hand (standing around looking menacing) and a credit card number. I received a confirmation a few minutes later with the name of the guard headed my way. Negusse arrived 10 minutes early and gave me a call from outside the bar so we could meet up. As my personal guard, he explained that he would be happy to prevent people from taking pictures with me or approaching my table.
Bannermen like Negusse are most often booked by companies in need of security for larger events. Guards spend most of their time at office parties, art openings, and beer festivals. They can be put in charge of checking the guest list, making sure everyone drinking is over 21, and ensuring that no one steals anything. If things do get out of hand, they can help break up fights or remove anyone who gets out of hand. In a city that spends a lot of time talking about disruption, these guys are all about the opposite.
“Their main purpose is to de-escalate situations,” says Chin. Don’t think that layoffs are going to go smoothly—he’s got a solution for you.
While I drank my beer, I chatted with Negusse about his experience as muscle for hire. He’s been to a lot of startup parties. He’s even shadowed startup retreats in Vegas. Things don’t get out of hand. There aren’t any horror stories. This is, after all, Silicon Valley, where men fight in subreddits. He heard that a different Bannerman had a glass thrown at him, but nothing came of it. “He ducked, and then kicked the guy out,” says Negusse. “It was fine.”
As for my time at the bar, it was fine too. No one came at me. No one even asked to have their picture taken with me. Actually, most people seemed more interested in talking to Negusse. Fine by me. I was savoring the safest IPA in San Francisco.
Photos by Tom Merton / Getty Images