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Milenkoff moving on to see the world

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Boot Pub manager made the pub a place for music

If you’re relatively new to the Whistler Valley, like so many people are at this time of year, you may have already had the pleasure of seeing a punk rock show at the only venue in Whistler that supports this youthful music on a consistent, weekly basis.

Or maybe you’ve been here long enough to see a high-end club act during The Boot’s infamous Monday Night Madness – week after week bringing in reggae, rock, ska, funk fusion or improv folk-rock. Then there’s the special event nights which see long time Whistler favourites such as She Stole My Beer.

What’s the big deal? The significance of live music at The Boot might be so subtle to the disinterested that it deserves little if any mention. But the fact is, live music is scarce these days and bucking the trends of DJ-driven music is risky and very few clubs rely on live bands to exclusively provide entertainment to their customers.

Although Moe Joe’s Pub has stepped up during the last six months to supply three or four evenings a week of live music in Whistler Village, Eli Milenkoff, manager of the Boot Pub in the White Gold neighbourhood, has for at least the last four years set an unswerving agenda for live music in his pub. At the end of December he and his wife Kate will leave Whistler to travel most of the free world. New manager Paul McNaught will take over.

Will it leave gaping hole in Whistler’s night life?

No. Not now that the table has been set.

As an entertainment reporter in the Whistler Valley for more than three years, it has been a pleasure to work with Milenkoff. I’ve often said he’s the most professional manager when it comes to live music previews. Weeks in advance, band bios, CDs, contact numbers and whatever else is needed to preview a band was on my desk. It’s just good business: good for The Boot and good for music fans.

"A lot of people do come in, just for a beer and look around," Milenkoff said. "I think we are like a roadside tavern in a way. It’s not a DJ spot. The live music is what attracted me to The Boot. I’d been to The Boot when I was on vacation so when I came to live here, there was really nowhere else for me.

"I don’t know if people understand what we do, on a regular basis, it’s very expensive," Milenkoff continued. "We have a high level of quality sound equipment, a sound man, and then we have a band. And the band gets accommodation, food, drinks. Add all that up and it’s a lot of overhead. You know some of these bars will bring in the bands for free and I don’t know how they do it. You can’t not ask for a cover charge when you’re bringing in bands like The Skydiggers, Chixdiggit, Steve Kimmock, She Stole My Beer…. So, for people who hate paying a cover charge, they can go to the same DJ, same bar every week. But that’s not what we’re all about."

If Milenkoff’s mission was to establish The Boot as a live music venue, his mission has been accomplished. Now he plans to travel for the next 12 months. After seven years of being knee-deep in the resort life, he says it’s time.

"Would I recommend the resort life? It depends," Milenkoff said. "It’s not for everybody. It’s very difficult to save any money. But the biggest thing that’s ever happened in my life was getting married. I met my wife here in Whistler. We were married at Nicklaus North May 23, 1998.

"But I learned a lot and I’m taking a lot with me. Public relations in music and everything that goes with it is one of the toughest things to leave. But dealing with between four and 10 people each week for live bands… agents and other people. I can see why people book DJs. It certainly simplifies the process."

Milenkoff says he owes a lot to people like Boot owner Ben Horne, and a staff who are more like family than employees. And one other factor has made live music easier at The Boot.

"I have to give a lot of credit to e-sound: Pip Euinton and Scott Young. Without all their professional know-how and patience, the sound would be nowhere near as good. They made the room," Milenkoff said.

"And now that the Thursday jam has started again, and Pip is taking care of that, we bring out the big stage and we get quality musicians coming in. The place is packed."

So now it’s off to spend Christmas in Ottawa with his family, then in the new year it’s Paris and Switzerland, Singapore and Malaysia, then Sydney, Australia by March to travel Down Under and get to know his wife’s family. After six or seven months, it’s back to Europe for two months with no set plans.

"It will be good to be on the other side of the desk for a change," he admitted. I mean, you have to deal with so many people all the time. My wife and I have no kids, so it’s a good time to do this."

After all these years in the entertainment business (not excluding his two years as food and beverage manager of Gaitors Restaurant above The Boot), what kind of advice does he have for aspiring original musicians?

"Get out there and support live music. So what if it’s five bucks? The bar doesn’t get any of that. Most of it goes to the artist. So don’t be afraid to pay to see a band. It’s the only way live music will stay in the bars."