Violence imperils Oak Harbor nightclub's license

The Oak Harbor City Council is holding a special meeting next week on one issue: the possible revocation of a popular bar’s nightclub license.

Following an executive session on potential litigation, the City Council passed a motion last week to hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29 to discuss the possible revocation of the Element’s nightclub license.

“Their license is coming due, so it’s a good time to discuss the issue,” said Councilman Jim Campbell, who made the motion.

The Element Nightclub on Bayshore Drive has been the subject of City Council discussion for years. Most of the concerns have centered on noise complaints from residents in nearby condominiums.

But over the last year or so, law enforcement officials have become alarmed at the number of violent incidents connected to the Element, culminating in the beating death of 23-year-old Chris Cooper last November. The police believe he was at the Element prior to the fight that left him unconscious a few blocks away.

At a Dec. 20 Public Safety Standing Committee Meeting, Oak Harbor Police Chief Ed Green advised council members that he had recommended to the mayor that the Element’s nightclub license be pulled or not renewed. He went through the history of complaints associated with the club; he said the number of complaints went down a little in 2010, but climbed again in 2011.

Green said he received detailed information from the Island County Prosecutor’s Office about a number of serious felony cases tied to the Element. A 26-year-old Oak Harbor man, for example, was sent to prison last year after slashing another man’s throat with a beer bottle inside the Element.

Green said there have been two drive-by shootings associated with the Element.

In addition, the city’s planning commission has been looking at a solution from a different angle. City staff members proposed the possibility of amending the city’s nightclub ordinance by reducing the number of patrons allowed in a nightclub. Under the city code, nightclubs are defined as businesses that sell alcohol and play music after 10 p.m.;  Food sales must make up less than 75 percent of receipts.

On the other side, Mike Kummerfeldt, the owner of the Element, defended the club and its public-safety record. He spent a lot of money on surveillance cameras and security personnel to deal with the complaints. He said the club isn’t doing anything illegal and has had fewer noise problems than ever before.

“I’m not too worried about next Tuesday’s meeting,” he said.

Yet Kummerfeldt admits that he’s been trying to sell the club over the last six months and has some interested buyers.

“Running the club was a good experience, but it was not something I planned on doing for the rest of my life,” he said.


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