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Element tries to change its tune

Element nightclub owner, Mike Kummerfeldt, stands in front of his club after hosting an open house for city officials, New Life Baptist Missionary parishioners and Waterside Condo residents.   - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Element nightclub owner, Mike Kummerfeldt, stands in front of his club after hosting an open house for city officials, New Life Baptist Missionary parishioners and Waterside Condo residents.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

Waterside Condo residents aren’t the only ones losing sleep over nightclub noise in Oak Harbor.

Mike Kummerfeldt also spends sleepless nights searching for answers.

“This has definitely kept me up at night,” said Kummerfeldt, owner of the Element nightclub and the Bayside Lounge, who’s hoping to ease neighbors’ concerns about his club. The building houses a church that has also complained.

So Monday evening, Kummerfeldt invited the condo residents, New Life Missionary Baptist Church parishoners, City Council members and the chief of police to an open house at the club to talk about the situation.

Council members declined the invitation because their attendance could cause complications with a hearing, which will determine if the Element can add gambling tables.

The meeting was on the eve of an amendment voted on by City Council that will affect all licensed Oak Harbor nightclubs, and 11 days before a public hearing for a permit that may allow gambling at the Element. The hearing is set for Friday, Dec. 12 at 10 a.m. at 1400 NE 16th Ave.

The city’s approval of the gambling permit is only half the battle, Sam Bayliss, Bayside operations manager, said. Kummerfeldt will also need an OK from the Washington State Gambling Commission.

Kummerfeldt has big plans for the young club. If he gets the go-ahead from the city and the Gambling Commission, he will move the Bayside Lounge gambling tables to the Element. And he hopes that all the Bayside customers, “from 21 to 80-plus,” will follow.

But he wants to make sure the neighbors are on his side.

“I apologize for not doing this a long time ago,” he said of Monday’s meeting.

Since the club’s first day in business, just under a year ago, the Oak Harbor Police Department has logged 66 noise complaints, said Police Chief Rick Wallace.

And loud, rowdy club hoppers didn’t earn the Element any neighborhood friends by leaving cigarette butts in the parking lot. Other complaints included fights and sexual activity in the parking lot and there was an accidental shooting earlier this year that injured two sailors.

“You got an image problem,” Jerome Moseley, a member of New Life Missionary Baptist Church, said. “You made a bad first impression.”

The Element’s image is exactly what Kummerfeldt wants to change.

“I want to be a good neighbor,” he said.

So far, Kummerfeldt has cut the outdoor smoking area to half its original size and beefed up the insulation to minimize noise, made the club and dance areas brighter and added a sports bar area in an effort to make the club less crowded and more “low-key.”

The open house provided a forum for discussion on what bothers neighbors most, and what can be done about the issue at hand: noise. Although only two church members, two Waterside condo residents and Chief Wallace attended, the group talked about reaching common ground while standing near the bar, club music playing in the background.

Meanwhile, the after-work clientele enjoyed food and drinks in the new sports bar area, with 10 TVs, two pool tables, two beer pong tables and a ping pong table.

Kummerfeldt is proposing a new 3 a.m. closing time so patrons can have a “cool-down” after the bar closes at 2 a.m. Instead of people hanging out in the parking lot waiting for a cab, they could stay inside where they would be supervised, and, more importantly not wake the neighbors.

The move certainly wouldn’t make him any money; the bar would be closed down for the night. But it may make the Element some neighborhood friends.

“I think they’re on the right track,” Wallace said. “The problem is what’s going on in the parking lot as it relates to the neighbors.”

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