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Pair bets on Oak Harbor

When it comes to the world of entertainment, Texas hold’em poker and martini bars are in vogue across the country.

This May, Oak Harbor residents can join the stylish and sophisticated folks of the world without leaving the city. Two young men are opening the city’s first casino, Bayside Lounge & Casino, that will include a swanky martini bar.

Lance Kohler and Mike Kummerfeldt are betting that the two great trends will go great together. They are in the process of converting the Highway 20 building that used to house Esteban’s Mexican restaurant into their new business.

It’s the partners’ second casino. The two men, who met while working at a casino in Ellensburg, have another casino in Okanogan.

Kohler said he and Kummerfeldt always wanted to own an upscale bar, but they decided to incorporate their love of card playing into the business.

“We are both avid poker players,” he said.

When complete, the downstairs area will house blackjack, three-card poker, Spanish 21 and pai gow poker tables. There will be a special area dedicated to Texas hold’em tables with tournaments three times a week, including free ladies’ tournaments.

Upstairs will be converted into a martini bar with fine dining. Kohler said they want to create a sophisticated, jazzy ambiance, which he describes as a “New York bistro-type atmosphere.” At the same time, he said the modest scale of the casino will have a “hometown feel.”

“This is not your downtown, drink-slinging bar,” he said. “It’s a date bar.”

Customers will be able to sip their martinis or other fancy drinks upstairs or downstairs while they are playing cards, which means they have to be 21 years or older to enter.

The men don’t expect the business to bring trouble. There will be two security guards and about 40 cameras to keep everyone on the up-and-up.

“There was a study that showed the crime rate dropped after we came in,” Kummerfeldt said, “because of all the security.”

Kohler said he hopes the business will attract a wide-range of folks, from sailors from the Navy base to retirees.

The partners are in the process of hiring more than 35 people from the community. They need card dealers, security guards, waitresses, gourmet chefs, bartenders and so on.

Anyone interested can pick up an application at the building Monday through Friday, from 1 to 4 p.m.

The grand opening is planned for Cinco de Mayo.

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