The provincial government recently announced $1.5 million in funding for the province’s 143 Royal Canadian Legion branches, and even though he doesn’t know how the funding is being divvied up or what restrictions there might be on it, Ashcroft Legion president Darrin Curran says that the news is “fabulous”.
“We need it,” he says frankly. “The recent two-month shutdown had a negative effect on us, and it’s nice to have the doors back open again for regular business. At this point we’re just looking forward to having the restrictions lifted and having dinners like we used to, and the pool table and darts and cards.”
The NDP government drew criticism when Legions were not eligible for the “circuit breaker” funding available to other businesses forced to close their doors in March. On June 2, MLA for Abbotsford South and Opposition Critic for Citizens’ Services Bruce Banman reminded the Premier that Legions had been left out of funding, after incurring significant costs and debt during the pandemic.
Half-an-hour later, the Province announced funding for Legion branches throughout B.C., and Curran says he’s glad the government came up with something.
“Considering that Legions are not-for-profit, it’s nice that the government finally recognized that we’ve been hugely affected during COVID. The drop in sales over the last 15 months has been incredible. We were completely closed for five months, with nothing happening.”
The Ashcroft branch is once again open for drink service, and has resumed its Friday night dinners. For now the meals are take-out only, but Curran says patrons are more than welcome to take out their meal and then take it into the Legion, or to the outdoor patio, to dine.
Curran adds that the branch is looking forward to getting back to regular dinners, as well as the popular meat draws: “Those are huge money-makers for the Legion.”
They were able to run the meat draws for a short time last fall, and experimented with a new format: instead of buying cuts of meat and letting winners pick what they wanted, they offered Safety Mart gift certificates that can be used for anything.
“It was very popular with customers, so we’ll probably continue with it,” says Curran. “It gives people more options, because they can use them for whatever they like, but it costs us the same amount of money.”
For now, the branch is waiting for direction from BC/Yukon Command, and Curran says everything depends on the public health orders from the Province.
“Once we get something from Command we’ll be firing up the meat draws again. I’m very optimistic that as people get the vaccine we’ll be able to start opening up more things for everybody, and sooner or later we’ll be back to normal.
“What that looks like is up to the data and what the provincial health officer says, but by July I’d like to see more things open — not just Legions — and people getting back to a more normal life.”