Royal Canadian Legion Branch #99 members are working towards increasing revenue opportunities.

Royal Canadian Legion Branch #99 members are working towards increasing revenue opportunities.

Sicamous Legion fights to keep doors open

Difficult economy and strict liquor laws having negative impact.

A difficult economy and the province’s strict liquor laws have helped put Sicamous’ Legion in a precarious financial position.

Royal Canadian Legion Branch #99 president Murray Williams says the legion is down to its two-month cash reserve. If they should go through that, the legion may have to close its doors.

But Williams doesn’t expect it will come to that.

“Right now, we’re keeping our heads above, we haven’t had to go and hit our savings,” said Williams. “This new executive has been working their butts off with special events and entertainment and a membership drive. We have 35 new members this year. There’s been a bit of a swing to younger members on the executive, and that seems to be helping.”

To address declining revenues, the legion has been changing things up a bit. This includes now being open Friday nights with a pool/crib/darts night that’s going over well, and entertainment every second Friday. Plans are also being made for future events, including a family function for Legion Week, June 21 to 30.

The legion has also been bringing in some unusual acts that, so far, have been very successful. In October, Neil Diamond tribute artist Jason Scott performed to a sold-out audience. On May 2, the legion hosts tribute artist Bonnie Kilroe (see page 8). Williams says if this show is as successful as Scott’s, the legion will work at bringing similar performances to town.

Williams says part of the legion’s financial difficulties has to do with a general public misunderstanding of who can become a member.

“A lot of people think you have to be a veteran, which is not true. Anybody can be a member of the legion,” said Williams, who acknowledges all local drinking establishments are having a tough go at it.

“We are very hard hit because we have no industry here, our population is becoming more seasonal,” said Williams.

A key difference with the legion, however, is that it’s a non-profit organization.

“We have our meat draws and our 50/50s and all that money goes back into the community. We’re allowed a very small percentage of that for administration costs, and that’s all we get out of the money that we raise,” said Williams. “So we’re putting a sizeable amount back into the community through scholarships, we sponsor cadets and Girl Guides, medical equipment, if anybody is in dire need or has suffered a catastrophe we support…”

Sicamous Couns. Fred Busch, Terry Rysz and Joan Thomson attended a recent legion meeting for a financial update. They reported the news at last week’s council meeting.

“Unless things change, they will probably have to shut the door, but it would be a great shame because the legion, not only is it a social place, it also provides a lot of services… especially veterans, but they also provide materials to schools and a lot of other places,” said Busch. “Hopefully things can change. Probably one of the things that has to change is the liquor regulation… but certainly one of the things the legion needs is our support, in many ways.”

“There’s a good group in there right now… and they’ve got lots of different events coming on,” commented Rysz, adding there are 72 changes proposed to the province’s liquor laws, some of which may benefit the legion. “But that remains to be seen.”