A group of members from the Penticton ANAVETS are wondering what is happening to their club.
The Army Navy and Air Force Veterans Unit No. 97, on Brunswick Avenue in Penticton, first shut down at the end of September, after the provincial command took control, removing the executive amid allegations of theft of cash and liquor. It reopened at the end of October, but was shut down again by the end of November.
“They haven’t told the membership one word. We have 340 other members that don’t know anything,” said John Fraser, a former -second vice-president of the club.
“They closed the doors on the (November) 30th and never told anyone until the patrons were walking out at 4:30 that afternoon. ‘Oh, by the way, don’t show up tomorrow, we’re not open.’”
Fraser said there was a theft of $900, and possibly some theft of alcohol, though they haven’t been given a value for that.
“It is our club. Yes, there were problems, we will admit to that,” said Fraser. “There was a theft, but not worth shutting down a club that is viable. They should come back with some kind of explanation.”
Sharon Goshko, president of the ANAVETS B.C. Command, said the allegations of theft are under RCMP investigation. She said a meeting will be held with the B.C. executives and the Dominion Command on Thursday to decide what the next steps will be and a special general meeting will be held early in the new year. Goshko added that meeting will be well advertised so all members in Penticton will know about it.
“You can’t run a business without out first trying to find out what is going on and we are trying to find out what we need to so we can move forward. It is just what they say, there was theft of some money and alcohol. Nothing was done about it,” said Goshko. “We are going to see what we can do when we talk to Dominion Command and if they have to come out and lay the law down they will. The last thing we wanted to do was close down a business, however, it is a business and we have to treat it as such not like it is our own backyard.”
John Kiceluk, a past-president of the club, said the club had about $100,000 in savings and was holding their own on a month-by-month basis.
“We had a positive cash flow, between $22,000 and $25,000 a month,” said Kiceluk, who says he hasn’t been given any information on what is happening with the command.
“I drove up there and there was a sign in the window, closed. That’s all I know and I am a past president,” said Kiceluk.
Considering the club’s finances, Fraser and Kiceluk said closing the doors didn’t make sense.
“They closed the club for $900. We told them at the meeting, you might as well close the club right now,” said Kiceluk.
Even if $3,000 or $4,000 worth of alcohol had been stolen, Fraser said that still wasn’t enough for Command’s action.
“Nobody found enough evidence to charge anyone. In my opinion, they should have let it go,” said Fraser, adding that B.C. Command fired the majority of the bartenders, and when the club reopened, it was only in operation from 10 a.m to 6 p.m.
ANAVETS member Sandra Darr said there was no shortage of members willing to volunteer to help get the club back up and running.
“They wanted volunteers. There were at least five or six names put forward for people that would help out in the meantime, and get the club back up,” said Darr, who was one of those volunteers. “It reopened a month and a bit later and not one of those people was ever called.
“There was no evidence of any recruitment of bartenders. Nobody saw any ads, nobody was approached.”
In the meantime, the darts groups that played at ANAVETS weekly have moved to the Penticton Legion, and a Monday night pool league has been cancelled.
“They basically folded everything up without telling the membership,” said Kiceluk.
Those patrons and others who are now frequenting other clubs are going to be hard to get back, if and when the club reopens, according to Fraser.
“They could have done the same thing in a week, they shut it down for five weeks,” he said, explaining that some people won’t come back because of the problems, especially the longer the club is closed.
“We don’t want to lose our club, but we don’t feel we have been given ample opportunity to make this run,” said Fraser. “They (B.C. Command) should have the guts to at least face the membership and tell us what is going on.”
Goshko said the club was re-opened on the limited hours to see if it was viable to run.
“We wanted to re-open and see if we can keep it going, get it up-and-running again. Unfortunately, people stopped coming in and we cannot afford to stay open when we can’t pay the rent, lights, phone. The unfortunate part is the animosity this has caused. We want to figure something out where we can get it up-and-running and if there isn’t animosity, get everyone working together.”