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UPDATE | Two-alarm blaze destroys The 122
At approximately 4:40 a.m. Monday morning, Larry Droguett awoke to strange and violent sounds.
“The crackling woke me up; I’m a light sleeper,” Droguett said.
When he looked to his window he could see an orange reflection on the blinds. He ran to his window and saw The 122 Bar and Restaurant on fire. The flames soared more than 35 feet into the night sky.
Droguett, who lives across the street from The 122 on Winslow Way, called 911.
“About 10 minutes after I called, that’s when the flames started coming out the from the windows,” Droguett recalled.
He watched the fire trucks arrive. Windows began bursting under the intense pressures of the blaze.
The two-alarm fire required four fire departments to tame — the Bainbridge Island Fire Department, Poulsbo Fire Department, North Kitsap Fire and Rescue and the fire department from Naval Base Kitsap.
“They eventually got a hose on it and another hose, but by then the whole building was engulfed in flames,” Droguett said.
Soon, Art Carbajal, a bartender for The 122, awoke to heavy banging on his front door. Carbajal lives with The 122 co-owner Chris Ortiz. They were told about the blaze by a friend passing by.
Carbajal and Ortiz quickly drove down to the restaurant, grabbing co-owner Kim Raymond along the way.
“Before we came all the way down on Madison we could see a huge, black plume of smoke going up. The panic just started setting in,” Raymond said.
No one expected the intense scene waiting around the corner.
“I completely freaked,” Raymond said. “I bailed out of the truck; I went running for the building.”
She was stopped by a police officer before getting too close to the inferno.
The 122 owners, staff and friends spent the rest of the morning sitting across the street watching their home-away-from-home turned to cinders by the flames.
Liz Ellis, a regular of The 122, and friend of the staff, heard of the fire early that morning and immediately went down to support her friends.
“I wasn’t sure why I was going, but it didn’t seem like I could just go about my day,” Ellis said. “(We) just sort of sat there, feeling useless. I think everyone was feeling that way, like they desperately wanted there to be something they could do.”
Ortiz and Raymond began calling all their staff to make sure no one was in the building. The staff was safe at home. Then, there was nothing left to do but watch it burn.
When a bolt of lightning caused the two-alarm fire at The 122, the flames took more than just a building. The fire took a home-away-from-home to many, and important corner of the island’s nightlife.
Bainbridge Island can boast a very small handful of pubs, bars, or other late-night establishments. In a town where nearly every business shuts down at 6 p.m., a rare few remain open for islanders.
Now, that number is even less.
The 122 gave islanders a place to go, to meet others in their community, instead of storing themselves at home each night.
The bar filled up each Monday evening with fierce competitors who religiously attended its pub trivia. Other nights, it hosted local musical acts, or gave islanders a place to exercise their singing pipes with karaoke.
“I loved the staff. I went to see Chris and Art and Jeff,” Ellis said. “Plus, I’m a sucker for karaoke.”
It didn’t take long for the community to respond to the tragedy.
The Bainbridge Island Downtown Association set up a relief fund at the Winslow branch of Columbia Bank. The fund will accept donation through August and will go to help The 122 staff and families.
It is too early for owners Ortiz and Raymond to know exactly how they will rebound from the tragedy that took their livelihood.
But they do know that they will rebound.
“The 122 will go on,” Ortiz said. “Whether it be in this building or the next.”
“Kim and I will rebuild this business,” he added. “We won’t let it go.”
But Ortiz and Raymond, the staff and the community aren’t the only ones who are affected by the loss. The property owners, Stephen and Gayle Seyl, lost a bit of their retirement plan. The Seyls owned the NAPA auto parts store that originally occupied the building.
“We built the store for an auto parts store,” Gayle Seyl said. “But rather than putting money away into an investment account, we put it into the building and the property.”
Despite the tragedy, the Seyls aren’t going to let the loss get them down.
“I’ve been through enough in my life that it didn’t bother me one way or another,” Stephen Seyl said.
“We will just continue on, that’s what we do,” he added.
“Maybe it’s a challenge for me to not feel so old and start something new again,” Gayle Seyl said. “It wasn’t in my plans but plans are meant to be changed. I guess we will change our plans.”