Vail council race: Bartender McKown says he’ll listen |

Vail council race: Bartender McKown says he’ll listen

Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyNWS Vail candidate McKown KA 10-11-07

VAIL ” Like any good bartender, Bob McKown is used to listening. His job, he said, is part priest and part therapist.

“It’s amazing what someone will tell a bartender,” he said.

But he isn’t telling stories. The drink-slinger must respect the bartender-drinker confidentiality, he said.

He’ll bring that same willingness to listen to the Vail Town Council, McKown said. He’s one of 10 Vailites who are running for the Town Council on Nov. 6.

McKown is the bar manager at Billy’s Island Grill in Lionshead. His favorite drink to make? He likes to keep it simple.

“Beer and a shot,” he said.

With three incumbents leaving the board and five seats open, McKown said he sensed a good opportunity to run for council.

“There wasn’t any blinding revelation or anything, no writing on the wall,” he said. “It’s just something I’ve been thinking about for a while and the time is right now.”

His role as bartender lets him keep his ear to the ground, listening to residents and guests, he said.

“If nothing else, a bartender hears it all, whether it’s compliments, complaints, do’s and don’ts, likes and dislikes, they tell the bartender,” he said.

The long-haired, laid-back, affable McKown says trust is another quality that will transfer from behind the bar to behind the Town Council table. “Trust Your Bartender” is his campaign slogan, emblazoned on buttons.

“I am big on support for the local business person,” he said.

There’s been too much construction at one time, he said. People don’t realize how significant the impact of recent, widescale construction has been on local businesses, from owners to dishwashers, he said.

“I don’t think oftentimes that impact is figured into the equation,” he said.

The town could do a better job of putting up signs to help customers negotiate the construction, he said.

Also, all of the pine-beetle-killed trees need to be cut down, he said.

“There should be some sort of ordinance law, something that says dead trees have to be removed,” he said. “I think it’s firewood looking for a spark.”

The town also needs to look at where it can build affordable housing, he said.

“The Middle Bench (of Donovan Park) isn’t a sacred cow,” he said.

McKown was born in Phoenix and raised in Tulsa, Okla. After college, he was drafted in the Army and served in Europe during Vietnam. He returned home and worked as a movie stuntman in Tucson.

“Just jumping off roofs,” he said.

McKown later ran bars and built tennis courts. At an invitation of a business acquaintance, he moved to Vail to run the bar in the Vail Athletic Club in 1989. He later worked at the Ore House, Russell’s, Beaver Creek Lodge and Blu’s. He came to Billy’s when it opened in 2002.

McKown lives with his wife in the town-built affordable housing above City Market. He enjoys skiing and hiking. He also likes to fly airplanes.

“I like anything with wings on it,” he said.

He now serves on the town’s liquor board.

The last time McKown ran for office was when he ran for student council in high school, and won.

“I have a great record,” he said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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