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‘We built this place for the artists’

Da Playground offers live entertainment, hopes to help musicians

Inna Vision performs at da Playground Maui, a new music venue in Maalaea that’s offering live music and comedy under strict COVID rules. Owner Brandon Dahle said he hopes to help artists who have been struggling during the pandemic. — Photo courtesy of da Playground Maui

During an economically challenging time on Maui, when a number of businesses have closed their doors, a new music venue, da Playground Maui, has opened in Maalaea, offering live entertainment in strict adherence to the latest COVID rules.

Owner Brandon Dahle reports he has faced some major hurdles in opening during a time of uncertainty, but is hopeful that locals and visitors will visit his new establishment at the Maui Harbor Shops.

“It has been a crazy challenge,” said Dahle. “We couldn’t be doing it at the worst time with increased cases. All we can do is do the right thing. We built this place for the artists and the community. Artists have been hit so hard and the only place they can play is restaurants.”

Dahle is presenting what he calls a “Local Love” series during January, with live music from bands such as Kanekoa, The Rhythm Sons and Inna Vision, and comedy by Chino LaForge and Trish da Dish.

“The majority of our shows have sold out,” he said. “Justin Morris from Brown Chicken Brown Cow just played and it was sold out. Justin was very hesitant to do it, he hadn’t played in over 10 months. He said he felt so safe.”

The stage at da Playground Maui is pictured. Live performers will be surrounded by a Plexiglas screen and situated 10 feet away from guests. No dancing is allowed. — Photo courtesy of da Playground Maui

Morris posted after playing the new venue: “So wonderful to have the magic of live music in our lives.”

Da Playground currently operates under Maui County’s 30 percent capacity restriction for restaurants, which translates to a maximum audience of 100.

“We could have more in there according to our capacity, but everything needs to be 6 feet apart,” Dahle explained. “The key is making everyone feel safe.”

A large Plexiglas screen surrounds the stage and performers are situated 10 feet from the audience. There are temperature checks upon entry, masks are required when not seated, tables are at least 6 feet apart, and no dancing is allowed.

Dahle and his wife, Myline, moved to Maui in 2017 from Las Vegas, where they worked in sales, development and marketing. Taking over the old Ambrosia Martini Lounge in Kihei, they opened VIBE Bar Maui and subsequently set their sights on developing a larger music venue.

“We come from an IT background,” he said. “I used to run a network security company and my wife was a director of marketing and social media in Vegas.”

As part of the “Local Love” series, Kanekoa plays today, The Tribunals play reggae on Sunday and a Power Up Comedy show is presented on Monday. Justin Morris and Matt Del Omo play on Thursday, and Jason Arcilla and The Rhythm Sons perform on Friday.

Former Haiku resident and “American Idol” contestant Eli-Mac will perform on Jan. 31. She has toured with Sublime with Rome, The Greeen, J Boog and the Rebel SoulJahz, and has opened for Lauryn Hill, SOJA and Shaggy.

Da Playground is an all-ages venue, aside from the stand-up shows presented by Power Up Comedy, when it’s 18 and over due to mature content. Currently, a majority of the live shows begin at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 per person for each show. Admission is by table purchase, which can include three, four or five patrons. Bar seating is also available.

Dahle says the musicians receive the majority of the door take.

“We’re taking $5 off the door and I can pay the artists anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 depending on what they are selling their tickets for,” he said. “Some of the artists could sell out two shows a night, but because of the new restriction we have to close down by 10 p.m.”

During the day, da Playground operates as a sports bar with seven TVs, and serves food crafted by Cy Smith, former chef of 808 Bistro and Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Wailea.

“The big goal when COVID is over is to be an arcade with ping pong tables and digital darts and old school retro video games,” Dahle said.

When COVID restrictions are lifted, da Playground has enough space for concerts with up to 500 attendees.

“I hope these shows do really well so we can continue their residency in February,” Dahle said. “We’ve been contacted by quite a few other artists. Live music is still alive.”

For more information and presale tickets, visit www. daplaygroundmaui.com.

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