34, security manager, Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium
Church, the beloved Old Fourth Ward bar that helped turn Edgewood Avenue into a nightlife hot spot, requires more than ping-pong paddles, church organ karaoke, and owner Grant Henry’s mad genius. Dillon Knight helps keep the peace.
It’s a bar. People get drunk. And people do crazy things. But this isn’t like Road House. It’s nothing too crazy most of the time.
I grew up in South Carolina, played soccer and football, but never went looking for fights. I went to school at the Art Institute [of Atlanta]. But this was always what I wanted to do.
It’s a 12-hour shift, so how do we stay up? Coffee. I didn’t start drinking it until I was 30. The average time that I get out of here is between 3:30 and 4 a.m. You get home, blow off some steam, down by like 5 or 6, and up by 1 or 2 p.m. if you get your eight hours. You acclimate just like anyone else, I suppose.
There’s never a dull moment, even on slow days. When I hire a new bartender or barback, I say, “I know you know a lot about this bar, but you gotta be ready: It’s not a forgiving block. You have to be comfortable with telling people to move on without being rude.”
Big size is one thing . . . I’m 6 foot 2. But I’ve always found that if I’m strict with people, explaining what’s going to happen, it works. It’s just a matter of how you hold yourself and what you’re prepared for. The last thing you want to do is fight somebody, but you have to be prepared. We have baseball bats. We’re firm but fair on everything. This here, you gotta put on some big-people pants.
In my seven-and-a-half years here, I’ve been in two fights. I’ve kicked more people out than that. Probably the most intense night I’ve ever had . . . years ago, there was this guy who came in here, always had a bad attitude. He’s a big guy, 6 foot 4, easily 220 pounds. He couldn’t pay his $20 tab; his card wouldn’t clear. He told the bartender, “Fuck you.” I said, “Okay, now, you gotta go.” And he just socked me right in the eye. We tussled a little bit, then I pulled him over the bar and just started ripping. His buddy tackles a bartender into the kitchen. One of our regulars—Derrick, he’s awesome, 6 foot 8—sees this, runs around the bar, picks the guy up off the bartender, and they just ran out the back door, disappeared. Never been back. —As told to Josh Green
This article appears in our September 2019 issue.