UPDATE: As Da Playground Nightclub Breaks New Ground, it Also

John Cruz performs with Kanekoa at Da Playground in Maalaea, Maui

John Cruz performs with Kanekoa at Da Playground in Maalaea, Maui

By Dan Collins

Updated Sept. 15

After three years of planning, Da Playground opened in the height of a pandemic. Owners Brandon and Myline Dahle hoped to bring the community together through music and laughter during these challenging times.

With careful consideration, Brandon and Myline Dahle have decided to temporarily close Da Playground to ensure the safety of the community, artists, and dedicated staff. They will reopen when the entire community can come together, play games, and enjoy shows as a great venue.

Brandon and Myline have prioritized the community and are grateful for the support the past eight months. They look forward to eating, playing, and drinking together soon.

By relying on local talent and a formula that puts those artists first, Brandon and Myline Dahle were able to do the extraordinary. They opened a nightclub during the pandemic. 

With an original opening date set in April 2020, Da Playground was in the works for almost three years. “It was going to be a ‘sports barcade.’ We were going to have ping pong tables, we were going to have retro old-school video games built into the tables, as well as corn hole and digital darts,” Brandon Dahle explained. 

“But then freakin’ COVID hit, like, a month before our opening. So, rolling out all those games and ping pong tables, and then social distancing didn’t make any sense.” 

The couple had relocated to Maui from Las Vegas in 2017, tired of their tech careers in Sin City. “We had this vision board and we’d hit almost everything on the vision board, except opening  up this beach bar that we’ve wanted to do all our lives,” Brandon Dahle said. 

On Maui, they saw a void in the community for a place that could truly showcase the abundance of local talent.  

“Maui’s full of all these different amazing, talented, local artists and you see them playing for,  like, a hundred bucks out in front of a restaurant that throws out a couple of speakers and tries  to call it a venue, right?” Brandon Dahle said. “All of a sudden we realized that there’s no venue here, aside from The MACC. There’s no place for these artists to really launch themselves.” As a result, Da Playground was created. 

Da Playground’s first show was a sold-out performance by Jason Arcilla on Jan. 1, 2021. Seeing the crowd smiling and dancing in their chairs, Brandon Dahle recalled, “It just meant the world to me.”

Early into their nightclub venture, the couple hand-picked local musicians who they trusted to take over one night each week and make it their own, similar to a residency. Artists could bring in supporting acts and introduce new artists. The couple chose established artists like Jason Arcilla (the Rhythm Sons), Justin Morris (Brown Chicken, Brown Cow), Koa Lopes (Inna Vision), and Randall Rospond (The Haiku Hillbillies) who were well-connected within the musical community. 

Sharing ticket sales with the artists has been pivotal to their success. According to Brandon Dahle, the percentage that he and Myline take from each ticket sold is just enough to cover the sound and lighting technicians, and two security guards. That is also assuming the show is sold out. The remaining money goes to the artists. Giving performers a generous cut is one of the main reasons Dahle believes Da Playground has been able to find success during the pandemic. 

The couple has staged close to 240 shows, following strict public health rules every night, without a single case of COVID-19 infection linked to the business. For the first five and half months, they mounted a plexiglas wall to the front of the stage to separate the musicians from audience members.

But strict adherence to the rules has come at a price. Artists who used to sell out are now only drawing 50% to 70% of that crowd. “I think some people are afraid to come out with all the increased cases, but I also think that people are sick of how regulated we are,” Brandon Dahle said. “I mean, we don’t mess around. As soon as you start dancing, we give you 20 seconds if you want to dance to the tip jar, but you’re not gonna get more than 20 seconds, and you’ve got to wear your mask.”

Nonetheless, gratitude remains the dominant sentiment among Brandon and Myline Dahle. “It really is just an honor to be able to bring this to the community,” Myline Dahle said. “The smiles, the happiness, you know, it’s all worth it. All the restrictions, everything we had to go through to abide by the rules, social distancing, do this, do that—at the end of the day, it was all worth it just to see people enjoy some sort of normalcy.”

Photo Credit: Dan Collins

Maui Times