OAKLAND CITY – The American Legion post in Oakland City was recently remodel, and now most of the facility is non-smoking.
Post 256 Commander Jeremy Conder said the remodel and move to a largely non-smoking facility was a decision made with the support of a majority of the members of the post, as well as a tactic employed to save the post from running too far into the red fiscally.
The post made attempts before the remodel to raise funds, and all of them were basically life support for the facility, which was two to three weeks from closing just a year ago, said Conder. A 52-week gun raffle kick-started much-needed funding.
In his second term as Commander, Conder said he sent a ballot out to members asking whether they would like to choose to become a non-smoking establishment, paired with a statement on the matter. Non-smoking won the vote, much to the chagrin of smoking frequenters of the post. “They fought me tooth and nail for it,” he said. Many professed their opposition, some going so far as to say they would boycott the post. Conder said the boycott efforts have not affected the post much, with business seeing an uptick since the remodel.
“I’m not against smoking,” Conder said, adding that the move had to do with the post’s bottom line rather than any kind of anti-smoking agenda.
The post now has a functional kitchen open to the public from noon to 9 p.m. every day, a larger dining room which accomodates well-attended events and children can now come into the dining room, which fuels hope that the post will remain well into the future. A full menu, including appetizers and many different entrees was implemented in late August. “It’s been substantial in keeping us out of the red,” he said.
Other changes include a new red roof and a brand new sign made by a post member.
Business is steady, Conder said, explaining that he doesn’t stress about bills anymore now that the remodel is complete and people are steadily filing into the post to eat or to attend events.
He said events were once crowded affairs, with the dining area being only one third of the facility. He said with the band, food and all the attendees in one smaller room, events would become uncomfortably crowded quickly. He said the few events they have hosted since the remodel have much more room available and have been successful.
The smokers at the post were not left out in the cold, though. There is a room especially for them in the post building. The smoking room is air conditioned, heated and ventilated and has ample seating, according to Conder. Many smoking members have adjusted to the room, he added. For fairer weather, there is also a patio, where patrons can take their alcohol outside, another major change for the facility.
Conder said he hopes those who spoke out against the changes will return to the post to give it another chance. “It’s kind of one of those things where you’re just hurting yourself staying away,” he said.