Legion takes drastic measure to stay afloatSaying “you gotta do what you gotta do,” Gary Ganser and the board of officers at the Two Harbors American Legion did something they knew would “shock” the community.
By: Mike Creger, Lake County News Chronicle
Saying “you gotta do what you gotta do,” Gary Ganser and the board of officers at the Two Harbors American Legion did something they knew would “shock” the community. The club closed and all of its workers were let go Sept. 29 as the club struggles through financial problems.
“The toughest thing was to walk in there and hand your employees a pink slip,” Ganser, the commander of the Legion, said this week. “You’re dealing with people’s lives.”
The Legion, after members and customers cleaned up the club and ran an inventory, re-opened three days later on Oct. 2. A five-member group from the executive board will focus on getting the club to be financially viable again.
The position of Legion manager, once held by Mitch Maki, won’t be filled until stability returns, Ganser said. “We want to see where we stand, what we owe,” he said. “We didn’t think it was fair to put all of that on one individual.”
Ganser said Maki did a good job but as things got “tighter and tighter,” a change had to be made. “We’re not saying Mitch was a bad manager,” Ganser said.
Employees were allowed to re-apply for bartending jobs, and some have been hired back. There are now five working the bar operation with a head bartender who handles the staff. More may be hired in the future. The gambling operation was untouched and is separate from the liquor portion of the Legion.
The move isn’t unique to this Legion, Ganser said. He said the economy, and especially the state of the bar industry, has forced Legions across the state and country to rethink the way they do business.
“We’re not pointing fingers,” Ganser said. “We’re re-grouping.”
Two years ago, the Moose Lodge did a similar housecleaning, administrator Casey Roberts said. The club is getting back on its feet after a “for sale” sign was put up and the directors planned to close up. “It was time for a new crowd to step in,” Roberts said.
Earlier this year, the VFW Club closed. It was an option the Legion board wanted to avoid. “We’re not done fighting here at the Legion,” Ganser said. “We don’t want to say we didn’t try.”
Roberts said the Moose Lodge is nearly caught up on its past bills. “We’re doing a lot better.” While Legion success would certainly cut into his own, Roberts said he can only wish them the best.
Ganser said he went to local bar managers and told them of the Legion’s plans so he could to stave off any rumors. Roberts said any move like the Legion made brings bad feelings. “Bartenders have a following,” he said.
The Legion continues to rent space for parties and community groups. It will also work to bring back live music and specials, such as raffle nights, Ganser said.
The Legion is open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Ganser remains optimistic in the first few weeks since re-opening. The alternative was worse. “If we had kept on going the way we were, we would have been done.”