The Shuswap’s Royal Canadian Legion branches serve as a gathering place, watering hole and source of revenue that goes to community projects; after riding out the closure due to COVID-19 things are getting back to normal at the legion halls.
Some legion branches in B.C. have been faced with closures due to the financial strain caused by the pandemic, but the Salmon Arm Sicamous and Chase branches are soldiering on with some measure of optimism for the future.
Bill Moore, the president of the Sicamous Legion, said community support and a successful year leading up to the pandemic has allowed them to overcome the costs of an almost three-month closure. He said the Sicamous branch reopened as soon as restrictions on pubs were lifted and has been building up to a relatively normal summer since then. He said the three months of lost income as well as their curtailed ability to host weddings and other large events have made an impact but dedicated regulars and relief on their BC Hydro bill have helped the branch.
Moore said their first evening back open was as busy as COVID-19 restrictions would allow and business has been steady since then. Relaxed rules on liquor-licensed patios has allowed the legion to serve drinks outdoors on a temporary basis until Oct. 31 and Moore said it is hoped they will be able to secure a permanent license for their patio afterwards.
The Sicamous Legion will be putting on a pasta dinner each Friday night over the summer, coinciding with the Sicamous Farmer’s Market in the legion hall’s parking lot. Moore said he is also pleased to see their Saturday and Sunday night meat draws resuming as ticket sales from those events put plenty of money back into the community. According to Moore the Sicamous branch was able to give out $50,000 of gaming revenue to community groups and people in need last year.
In Salmon Arm, the legion hall began a soft opening on Tuesday, July 7. President Matt Fowler said the members and guests have been happy to have a place to gather and socialize again, albeit with some social distancing protocols in place. Fowler said the Legion is not offering pool or other games to start with and the capacity limit of 46 people makes hosting events like the burger and beer night they would normally be hosting monthly a challenge.
Fowler said in order to protect their clientele the legion is going above and beyond the safety protocols set out by the province.
Money challenges had been a concern for the Salmon Arm branch as they shut down due to the pandemic.
“We have a terrible business plan. We make it and then we give it away, ” Fowler said.
The Salmon Arm Legion has often hosted fundraisers in the past and Fowler said they are looking into resuming them, making use of the legion hall’s parking lot so they can go back to putting money into the community.
Paul Lamoueux, the president of the legion branch in Chase said the COVID-19 closure left them a little short of cash, but they have their heads above water and were happy to reopen about two weeks ago.
Unfortunately a few fixtures of the Chase Legion’s operations, including darts and burger nights, have had to discontinue for the time being due to COVID-19 safety regulations. Lamoureux said they are following the rules closely with the goal of keeping everybody safe.