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Council tightens Element’s restrictions

The Element will continue to operate with a temporary nightclub license until the Oak Harbor City Council can approve a new permit under the city’s updated nightclubs ordinance.

The council modified the city’s outdated cabaret ordinance in November. The updated law, called the nightclub ordinance, allows the city to attach specific conditions to each license.

Each time the license holder violates a condition, the business will face a fine based on a graduated scale from $500 to $750 and $1,000.

The fourth violation is considered a misdemeanor criminal offense.

Since the change, Oak Harbor nightclub license-holding businesses have operated under a temporary permit until police are able to conduct an investigation — required by the Nightclubs Ordinance — and draft a list of recommended license conditions. The council is charged with approving or disapproving the conditions in a public hearing.

The council held a quasi-judicial public hearing Tuesday to determine the conditions of Element owner Mike Kummerfeldt’s nightclub license application.

Based on Lt. John Dyer’s investigation, the Oak Harbor Police Department recommends six conditions. For example, the club must adhere to all laws; keep all doors and windows closed; keep outdoor lighting directed downward; keep the parking lot litter-free; and provide security personnel inside and outside the club at specified times.

In 2008, the Element’s first full year in operation, the police received 132 calls for service directly related to the nature of the business at the club, including assault with a handgun; minor in a tavern; two calls for minor frequenting a tavern, which resulted in penalties by the state Liquor Control Board; three sex offense complaints; four complaints of lewd conduct; eight verbal disputes; 13 disorderly conduct; 17 assault in the fourth degree, including one domestic violence complaints; and 83 noise complaints, according to the police department.

“Our record looks bad, but that’s the past and we’re looking toward the future,” Kummerfeldt said.

But some council members think the police recommendations are too lenient in light of Element’s spotty history.

“Since the temporary license went into effect, we’re on the way to getting 104 complaints,” Councilman Bob Severns pointed out, although

Wallace noted that about half of those complaints were “unfounded.”

“It’s too soon to really tell, but it’s probably going down a little bit,” Wallace said of the noise complaints, which are his primary concern over the club, which is located near historic downtown, in a mixed residential and commercial district, across from Windjammer Park.

Of the 83 noise complaints from nearby residents, 10 were closed with some type of enforcements to the business or to individuals in the parking lot area, 15 were gone on arrival, 27 were settled by contact and 28 were closed as unfounded, according to the police.

Element originally opened as a nightclub and restaurant. Since then, the restaurant changed to a sports bar and the business now includes a card room.

Many of the complaints resulted from a noisy smoking area and from club-goers yelling, fighting, playing car stereos, revving engines and driving aggressively as they left the club, Wallace said.

“Rather than wait six months, I’d like to see three month intervals for at least nine months,” Severns said, referring to the frequency police should meet Kummerfeldt to review the license conditions.

Councilman Jim Campbell also wants to see some changes.

“I’m just not comfortable yet,” he said, suggesting that security personnel remain in the parking lot until 4 a.m.

Over the past year, Kummerfeldt reduced the size of the smoking area by half, installed additional insulation and changed the music format from hip hop to pop/rock in an ongoing effort to reduce the amount and volume of noise from the club.

Time will tell if Kummerfeldt’s changes to the club and conditions of the Element’s nightclub license reduce patron noise.

“The best part of the nightclub ordinance is that we have the ability to take action,” Chief Wallace said.

Council members proposed three specific changes to the current license conditions: Extend the hours of security personnel in the parking lot from 1:15 to 4 a.m.; Kummerfeldt must meet with Wallace on a three month basis; and Wallace would submit a quarterly report to the City Council. The revised conditions will likely go before council in April.

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