Fri, Feb 16, 2007 - Page 15 News List

Last call at DV8

By Ron Brownlow  /  STAFF REPORTER

The writing's on the wall for one of Taipei's oldest expat watering holes.

PHOTOS: RON BROWNLOW, TAIPEI TIMES

When Kenbo Liao (廖褚健) rolled into DV8 Tuesday night, he wanted to share the good news. The man he says squealed on him in kindergarten, former Taipei City mayor and erstwhile Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), had been indicted earlier in the day on corruption charges, and Liao felt like gloating.

But another recent development was taking the edge off his glee. There are just a few nights left for DV8, a popular local dive and occasional den of intrigue. For almost 20 years of beer-soaked, cigarette-fueled operations, DV8 has been the site of many a newly-arrived expats' first Taipei night out, countless hedonistic going-away parties, flamboyant musical acts and dangerous liaisons. Its owners sold the building last month, and DV8 will serve its last tequila shot sometime during the early hours of Feb. 27.

The story of DV8 has all the elements one would expect from a bar that stays open late and has been around for two decades: hungover regulars in a failed holiday excursion, disgruntled customers who came back with a golf club and a gun, male bonding over drinks during natural and manmade disasters. But more often than not it was simply a great place to go for friendly conversation, where patrons about to embark on alcohol-fueled journeys exchanged pleasantries with the owner's father, an old man from Shanghai who sidled up to the bar most nights around 9pm, nursing a large glass of tea. It was never pretentious. People came to DV8 to meet people and relax, not to strike poses or otherwise show off.

"The bartenders were always reasonably friendly and down to earth," said Niall Clinton, who tended bar at DV8 for 20 months until 2002 and now applies the lessons he learned there as co-owner of On Tap, a pub west of Guangfu South Road. "You could go there and talk to the Jimmy or the Mary beside you and have a grand old chat until four in the morning," he said. "There's not too many places in the city like that any more."

When asked to give her favorite memory of DV8, Michelle Wong (王風鶯), the owner's wife, said it was a couple of years after the bar opened when patrons fielded a team for a dragon boat race. "They always drank too late and could not get up in time. Just one or two would go to each practice," she said. The result was that on race day Team DV8 rowed around in circles and took 15 minutes to cross the finish line.

Ask a lot of people about DV8 and you get a similar story. "I got way too drunk there," or, "It's all a tequila haze." Kenbo Liao remembers one such hazy moment in 1996, when China was launching missiles over Taiwan. Lots of people had left Taiwan, but he was here with a few regulars. "The missiles were probably shooting over our heads," he said. Around 2am they got together and pledged to defend Taiwan against China. "We were comrades," Liao said.

Like many regulars — and unlike DV8's owners — Liao is of the pan-green persuasion. The bar's resident yarnspinner, at 10pm on Tuesday he was regaling a reporter with his story about how, while attending Jingxin Kindergarten (靜心幼稚園), he was punished by his teacher after Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who is a year older than Liao, saw him teaching a few of his classmates how to speak Japanese. "I want you to print that," Liao told a reporter. "I want him (Ma) to sue me!"

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