Coffee in Kelowna: Myke David
A conversation with the man at the door
Story by Shane Collins
Photo credit and copyrights to Shane Collins & Gonzo Okanagan
If you’ve been out on the town over the past 7 years, you may have come face to face with MYKE DAVID. He was one of the first faces you’d encounter when entering Kelowna’s DOC WILLOUGHBY’S.
It was once the epicenter of Kelowna’s nightlife. It was a dimly lit, Irish bar with a small stage, an enormous following, an affordable menu and it was the place you’d go to meet up with friends before and after a night out on the town. It was known for rowdy nights, more love than fights and it was where Myke’s days of working the front door began. Going through my portfolio of live images from those days, Myke pops up often. He’s usually in the background, somewhere to be found. It’s like playing Where’s Waldo?
The bar has been closed now for several years, but Myke has continued to work as a bouncer. He greets you with a smile, checks ID’s and helps maintain order.
I reached out to Myke and asked if he’d be willing to sit down with me, talk about life working the door at our old stomping grounds and now, at RUNAWAYS LOUNGE. He agreed and that’s where we sat down to eat some food, talk about life and reminisce about the good ol days.
I arrived early. Myke comes in a few minutes later and I am embraced with a bear hug. We sit down and get the formalities out of the way. Our waitress greets Myke with a hug.We order chicken wings. It’s also that time in the day when everyone is kicking off work. The traffic is terrible. Kelowna keeps growing and the gridlock seems to tighten, year after year. More and more people move to this city. Kelowna needs more garbage trucks, more bridges, more affordable housing, more of many things but it also needs more venues to meet the demand and RUNAWAYS is gaining a reputation for another venue with a small stage but bigger and bigger bands keep popping up on its radar. I’m still soaring on the wings of photographing the Mad Caddies, California’s ska punk legends on their 28th anniversary tour. They swung by RUNAWAYS for a sold out show and it really felt like those good ol days back at DOCS.
“How’s the transition been from DOCS to Runaways?” I ask Myke as our waitress brings us our drinks.
Myke crosses his arms in front of him and says, “It’s been awesome. The vibe here feels so much like it did back in the day. Easy going crowd. Lots of great bands. We got some of the old crew working here. It feels like we are building on that vibe we had going at DOCS.”
“How’d you get into this line of work?”
“I was training at TOSHIDO’S back then. Some friends of mine started working at DOCS and they suggested I apply so I inquired with the bar’s management. They were willing to give me a shot. That’s when I met Colin.” He nods over to the bar. Colin Carrier walks from tap to patron, transporting a beer with stealth-like efficiency.
Our waitress returns and we order wings.
“When was the first time you had to get physical with someone at the door?”
Myke had to take a moment, seeming to need the time to pull from a deep well of incidents over the years. He rubbed his hands and stared at the floor. Finally, he said, “I’m pretty sure it was my second shift. It all happened so fast. A guy was getting all handsy with this woman and she wasn’t having it. She pushed him and he grabbed her. That’s when something came over me and I was on him. I took him by the arm, pulled him out of the bar and sent him off with a shove. I told the guy to sleep it off.”
“How’d that feel?”
“Really good. Gratifying. I thought to myself, ‘I’m allowed to do this. It’s a part of the job.”
“You had a good crew behind you back then.”
Myke nods his head again. “With support from people like CUBA and SIERRA working the door with me, the whole team became like family.”
“What is it about the job you love? It must be tough loving music and working at the same time. How did you balance that?” Our wings arrive and I crave beer but order coffee instead. Somewhere within, there is a Homer Simpson in my brain and it whispered, ‘mmm, beer.’
“I really love the relationships you make at the door. Some of my best friends I met working late at night, standing out in the cold.”
“You must have some wild stories about those good ol days of DOCS, eh?” I bite into my hot wing and burn my face. “Hot.”
“If the walls could speak.” He looks off into the distance and shakes his head. “The shit I’ve seen over the years working that place.”
“Gimme a few.”
“There’s some things I can say but there’s lots I can’t. Let’s just say I’ve seen it all. Brawls that started in the smoke pit out back that were finished in the street out front. Sex in the washrooms, on the dancefloor and up in the green room. It was a behavior I don’t see much anymore.”
“Feels like a long time ago.”
Myke nods his head and bites into his wing. “It was a different world.”
“What do you think has changed?”
He takes a moment and sips his beer. “COVID fucked everything up. I’m grateful to be getting back to it but it’s taken all this time for people to get back into the headspace for live shows and going out again.” We look around the joint. People are coming in for dinner. A few folks mingle at the bar. The staff seem to be preparing for the dinner rush.
“What are a few of the things you’ve noticed since restrictions were lifted? Any changes in the mentality or the behavior compared to the old days?”
“There’s lots of differences about the people coming out now compared to coming out then.” He didn’t need any time to respond. There was lots to be said. “It’s so much more expensive to go out now compared to only a few years ago. Inflation is way up so the numbers are down. It’s a new era and sometimes it feels like people are a little more docile.” He shrugs his shoulders and looks out the window. “Back then, if you ran your mouth, you’d have your mouth slapped. Two people would duke it out. Working the door, we were trained to be nice until it’s time not to be nice anymore. We stepped in or we escorted people outside to sort things out. Lots of those fights ended in handshakes.”
“Do you find that doesn’t happen anymore?”
Myke shakes his head as he tears into a wing. “These days,” he says with a mouthful, “people attack others online or write bad reviews. It’s all so different now.” I write all of it down on the yellow note pad in front of me. My fingerprints are coated in hot sauce and they smudge the page.
“You’re a big music fan, yeah?” I ask.
“You must have seen hundreds of shows. Is that a part of why you do this kind of work?”
“Absolutely. I have a lot of memories, good ones, that include being up front, in front of the crowd, pushing people back from the musicians. We never really stood still. I had to learn to be on duty and enjoy the music.”
“Was it a balancing act, both working and being a part of the crowd?”
“Totally. It became an acquired skill to be so focused on the job yet being open enough to enjoy the show. Things can pop off in a second.” Myke snaps his fingers in front of my face. “And you have to be ready.”
“Who was one of your favorite bands that came through those old doors?”
“THE WILD. Seriously, when Dylan walked up the stairs, climbed onto the railing and jumped, crashing into the crowd 15 feet below with his guitar, that was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.”
We sat for a long while and talked about those old days. However, Myke doesn’t like to get hung up, longing for those times. It’s just fun to reminisce. For me, it’s like talking fondly about the loved ones we’ve lost. Nostalgia. It’s a way to keep memories alive.
I for one am happy to see Myke at the door. He treats one with respect and he’s nice until it’s time to not be nice. He’s from the old school. He lives by principles like hard work, respect and loyalty. He’s a father, he trains in MMA and he works concrete for a living. He’s a sweetheart. One of the kindest guys I know yet if anyone gets out of line, he might be the last face you see during the night. So, play nice, dear readers. It’s a better experience for everyone.