Sequim’s bowling alley faces closure or, possibly, a revitalization.
Property owner Karl Allen put the 6,000-square-foot building housing Sequim Olympic Lanes up for sale last month. At $299,000, he said it’s priced to sell.
Allen said he bought the property, at 710 E. Washington, in 2007 as an investment.
He leases the property to Vern Elkhart, owner of Laurel Lanes in Port Angeles, who turned Sequim’s alley management over to his son Mike. Vern Elkhart said he’s been involved with Sequim Olympic Lanes for about 20 years and has operated it since 2001.
Allen said he hasn’t received monthly rent ($2,000 a month) in some time.
“I’ve been more than patient,” he said. “I’ve never raised rent and this is a hobby (business), If you don’t make a profit, it’s a hobby.”
Allen said he listed the property far below what he paid for it and wants to give someone a good deal on it.
“I’d like to see someone keep it going. Keep the passion for it,” he said.
Vern Elkhart said neither he nor his son have any intention of buying the business.
“I’m too old to be investing in stuff,” he said.
The elder Elkhart has listed his Laurel Lanes for sale and intends to have Mike continue operating Olympic Lanes if the owners allow them.
“It depends on who buys it,” he said. “We intend to keep it running. It has potential. It’s getting better every year.”
Vern Elkhart said he has a verbal agreement with Allen to pay the back rent.
“I’m certainly going to honor it,” he said.
Allen is conflicted about his plan if the alley doesn’t sell in the next few months. He might shut the business down and lease it out again or allow the Elkharts to continue.
“I don’t want to kick someone out when they are trying to make a go for it,” he said.
If it sells, its future as a bowling alley is in doubt because the Elkharts own all of the equipment.
The bowling alley isn’t the only property Allen has for sale within the city limits. Some of those include a former beauty salon on River Road and a duplex on Bell Street.
His reason for divesting in Sequim?
“I see the handwriting on the wall,” Allen said.
At one point in 2009, he was on the brink of developing several major projects within the city limits, notably a three-story development at the former Texaco station, now Skunkworks. The project would have included condominiums, commercial space and a Silver City Brewery restaurant worth about $15 million through different phases.
“I did all the engineering and planning out of pocket and it came down to the building being six inches too high,” Allen said.
Allen noted the city has since changed the rule. “Later on it’s not a factor. I was trying to bring things into town. And now the city council thinks growth downtown is a good idea. I guess I was too early.”
Chris Hugo, the City of Sequim’s director of community development, said records aren’t saved with the city until the builder pays city fees for construction, so no records of these projects are on file.
Allen said he pulled the plug on the other projects too because the impact fees are too high and the city’s building climate was too low.
“There’s nothing that entices me to build,” Allen said. “I’m just going to get rid of properties in city limits.”
With his property purchases, depreciating values and losses from lack of leased space, Allen said his losses in Sequim are over $1 million.
After the proposed brewery fell through, he tried to build a parking lot there but said he found too much bureaucracy in trying get anything done. Allen has since sold the site. He estimates he’s lost more than $500,000 from the proposed brewery site.
“It’s a life-altering experience,” he said. “I’m not rich. With that I could have a good retirement. I made my first mistake there and I wasn’t going to make it again. You can only hit a wall so many times.”
Shawnna Rigg, real estate broker with Re/Max Fifth Avenue, said people often assume the Elkharts own the property.
“It’s a popular frontage property,” she said. “It’d be nice if the alley could stay.”
By Allen’s estimation there are more than 50 commercial vacancies in the city.
“We’ve been (in Sequim) quite a while. We raised our kids here. You want to see things progress. You should see things change and move along. You don’t want it to be stagnant,” he said.
Hugo said Sequim doesn’t have the staff size to track commercial vacancies.
“We have no resources to analyze this,” he said. “It comes at the expense of something else in public works. It would literally take away something from our budget.”
Allen said he’s tried partnering with the City of Sequim in the past. He said he approached the city after the city purchased the Serenity House for its new civic center but couldn’t reach an agreement.
“I tried to work with them but they don’t want the city to grow,” he said.
This week the Sequim City Council voted unanimously to reduce traffic impact fees while other impact fees would remain the same.
Allen said it doesn’t make a difference for him because he already sold the brewery site.
He also considered another development by the bowling alley, but recent rezoning didn’t guarantee him a conditional use permit so he sold the property.
For more information on the Sequim Olympic Lanes, visit www.sequimbowling.com.
For more on the property, call Shawnna Rigg at 808-5448.