“As for comparing us to other similar types of places, I don’t think we compare. We have very good food. We can compete with the Brigantine, but as for the whole package from breakfast to two a.m., plus being a sports bar, the only thing I can compare it to is to Trophy’s, but it doesn’t have a band like we do. We sponsor a softball team in Poway for adults, and we sponsor a couple of Little League teams too. Nothing co-ed, nothing Brenda played on.
“Because of the publicity we’re getting, we see a lot of new faces. For us I think it’s a good thing, because people want to see the place, and we’re selling more T-shirts than we did before. Business has picked up by about 20 percent. When I saw Damon [van Dam] in court, I offered him a free dinner anytime they want to come in. He said, ‘We’ll probably never be back again.’
“As for a swingers stigma, some people have associated the van Dams’ lifestyle as part of the bar. We hear it a lot. I think people are here ten minutes, and [they see] this is just like any bar in PB where people hang out. We’ve been here for 30 years overall, so people know us.
“I didn’t know anything about [swinging] in my bar. I’ve been a bartender for ten years, and I’m rarely shocked or surprised. But when it happened I was, like, whoa, what a different lifestyle. Personally, I would never participate in it, but that’s just me. One thing as a bartender I’ve learned, you can’t talk politics, religion, business, or judge [people]. Your whole purpose is to make money and make people laugh. If you judge them, that won’t happen. If Brenda van Dam came in here as a swinger, I’m gonna treat her right and not judge her. But really, I only saw her in here a few times.
“David Westerfield was a loner. He usually came in to meet a male friend.
“Nowadays a lot of these people try to get famous by talking to the media. I don’t even know half the people who now say they’re regulars. Really, there are only about 60 regulars.
“Since all this happened, Dad’s has changed. It put us in the limelight and has given us notoriety. People have come to check us out. That’s the positive thing. The only negative thing I can say is the repetition of questions, you know, like ‘Where were they?’ ‘Where did they sit?’ ‘How was Westerfield?’ and ‘How was Brenda?’ I’m here almost every night, and I hear it nonstop.
“I watched a little of the trial, but not a lot. No reading about it or listening to it on radio. For me it’s unfortunate that there’s a little girl that’s lost, but life moves on, and with me being part owner, I have to move on. The only thing that matters is the end result.”
By 9 p.m. the room begins to fill. A couple stands near the dance floor. The guy, maybe six feet tall, could have played high school football. He wears dark shorts and a polo shirt, holds a beer glass in one hand, and keeps his other hand firmly splayed across the small of his girlfriend’s back. He talks to a male friend who stands near them. The woman’s a slender blonde wearing black-and-white cropped and flared pants, a white peasant shirt, and white plastic sandals. She looks around, glances across the tables and toward the bar as her date continues to talk with his friend. Led Zeppelin’s “Nobody’s Fault but Mine” plays in the background.
A couple of women, tall, in their mid-40s, enter the bar and sit at one of the tables near the dance floor. The more butch-appearing wears black boots, black jeans, and a jean jacket. Her hair is cut short; she wears no makeup. She looks around, as if searching for familiar faces. Her friend, with naturally blond hair cut in straight bangs, also wears black jeans and boots. This couple seems to know the staff. They say hello to and hug several people.
Across the room is Dana, 51, CFO for a construction company. He’s lived in Poway for 15 years but now lives in UTC. Did the Westerfield trial publicity make him want to come to Dad’s?
“It didn’t make any difference. We came here because we hadn’t been here in a long time and we thought it would be a good place to come back to.”
What about the stories that people get sexually frisky here?
“Nah,” Dana says to that. “Dad’s is a sports-bar type of place. I don’t sense this being a different place than most other sports bars I’ve been in. I think it’s been embellished somewhat. I’ve been here for [TV] football, and people are yelling and cheering, but nothing you wouldn’t expect in a sports bar. I never viewed it as a place for guys to pick up gals or vice versa. Randy Jones’s restaurant on Pomerado Road is a similar place.”
As for how all the publicity surrounding murder has affected Poway, Dana says, “Poway has become a place where there has been a lot nicer housing built up, and it’s not so much of a cow town. It used to be known as just a nice middle-class area with good schools. Now it kind of has this image that this is more of a swinging place. I don’t think that will last, but I think now it has put a stain on the neighborhood.”
Dana hasn’t followed the trial in much detail, but he thinks that Westerfield’s guilty. “Based on what I can tell — the technical evidence, hair or fingerprints or whatever. Putting it all together, it seems like he was probably someone who enjoyed the sexual side of small kids. I think he did it.”
Smashmouth’s “Walkin’ on the Sun” plays. The bar crowd thickens with men looking like locals in their regular drag — jeans or shorts, T-shirts with bands or businesses emblazoned on back, caps backward and forward. Bellies getting bigger. So far, no one looks as if he exercises much. A man in his early 50s, with dyed black hair, pinkie ring, slacks, and dark shirt approaches the two women dressed in black jeans. He hugs the blonde familiarly, and they talk.