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Laughs and live music take Kelowna’s newest venue on a ‘Runaway’

Runaways Lounge takes over the former Mission Tap House location
(Left to right) Ashley Plante, Rachel Lawryk, Andy Murphy and Jen Ventresca are some of Runaways Lounge staff. (Jen Zielinski/ Black Press Media)

When two iconic pubs known for live music closed in downtown Kelowna, patrons and local musicians were left feeling a void.

Both Doc Willoughby’s and Fernardos closed their doors last year, and while venues in the North End have created a space for live music, many were still missing a place to host a jam night or hear some punk rock.

However, on Aug. 19, a new venue for entertainment will host its grand opening at the former Mission Tap House.

The South Pandosy neighbourhood pub was bought earlier this year by Dan Bernier and Dave Myers and rebranded as Runaways Lounge.

A long-time staff member of Mission Tap House, Jen Ventresca, stayed on with the new owners to help with the rebranding and work towards opening a new space for live music.

Ventresca, known for her killer drumming ability since the age of eight, has been in bands for more than ten years, such as Frig Off and Jenny and the Dicks.

“The owners wanted to create something they have always envisioned as friends and as they are both into live music, we put a stage in,” she said.

Ventresca then started contacting local musicians as well as bands from across B.C. to let them know Kelowna had a new venue to play at. Runaways is now booked every weekend until January 2023.

“I love having the local bands and right now the scene is pretty heavy, but we have had some blues, rock and great touring bands. We really just want to push people down to this end of the city towards Lakeshore,” said Ventresca.

Once the word was out that change was in motion, those in the restaurant industry took notice. Former Doc Willoughby’s bartender Colin Carrier, who was known for his many years behind the wood at the Bernard Avenue location and for booking bands, decided to mosey on down to Runaways to be part of the action.

Runaways also hosts a jam night every Wednesday where drums, bass and an electric guitar, as well as amps, are provided.

“We encourage bringing your own instruments but sometimes transporting your gear around to jam nights can be hectic and a lot of work, so it’s nice to have stuff here,” said Ventresca.

Starting later this month the venue will kick off comedy nights which will continue through the fall. It will host Comedy Fest on Aug. 27.

The name for Runaways comes from when owners Dernier and Myers would have business meetings and things would get a little carried away.

“You know when you’re at a business lunch and then you have a drink after, next thing you know it is a runaway and the day gets away from you,” explained Ventresca.

The lounge will also expand its patio and stage later this year, and with a capacity of more than 200, there is room to spread out.

Runaways also offer brunch on the weekend, lots of free parking, and the same great menu that customers favoured from Mission Tap House.

The grand opening will take place at 3 p.m. on Aug. 19 with Gold Sauce and Chase the Bear taking to the stage.

READ MORE: Kelowna pub Doc’s set to expand and change name

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Jen Zielinski

About the Author: Jen Zielinski

Graduated from the broadcast journalism program at BCIT. Also holds a bachelor of arts degree in political science and sociology from Thompson Rivers University.
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