© NANCY MACPHEE/TC MEDIA
St. Eleanors Lions Club members Gary Gaudet (left) and Stu Arkwell stand outside the club’s home, situated at 121 East Dr. The removal of the last two VLTs from the building has left the club to struggle to find the $15,000 they generated annually, money used to pay for the building’s upkeep and for electricity and heat.
Club’s last two video lottery terminals taken, leaving club to find $15,000 they provided to survive
The worry is clearly etched on Stu Arkwell’s face.
Arkwell and fellow members of the St. Eleanor Lions Club are faced with the possibility, if new revenue isn’t found, that the building the organization has called home for 54 years could close its doors — and soon.
Two weeks ago, the club’s last two video lottery terminals (VLTs) were removed.
The loss means the club now has to find $15,000 that the machines generated annually, money which was used each year to pay bills such as electricity and heat.
“We knew this was coming. We have been in the bottom five per cent (of earnings from VLTs) for the past five years or more,” said Arkwell. “Originally, they were going to take the five all out and we talked to the government and they agreed to keep there. Then, slowly, they took another one and then these.”
The building is more than a home to the St. Eleanors Lions Club and the Lionesses, used by various other groups, such as Girl Guides and Boys Scouts, for free.
And it has hosted countless benefits, dinners, wedding receptions and fundraisers.
Its closure, said Arkwell, would be a huge loss to the community.
“It’s a community resource in St. Eleanors and the only place that is free.”
Club president Gary Gaudet said the hope is the club’s Chase the Ace draw, going now for about a year, will continue to grow.
“Last Friday was one of the biggest draws,” said Gaudet, adding, though, similar draws are popping up, making it difficult to draw people. “We are a small club and the draw is not as big as up west. Our 20 per cent was $100.”
First-round revenues paid for a new roof. But more work is needed, an estimated $65,000 in repairs, such as new washrooms and electrical.
A plea has been made to the city in the hopes that, if all else fails, it would take over operation of the building, which it owns and leases to the Lions Club for $1 a year.
The city has helped out, paying for new heat pumps, which should cut costs.
But without the VLTs people are going elsewhere, not frequenting the club’s bar.
“We’ve only done it for a week and it hasn’t been good,” said Arkwell, adding that on the Saturday without the machines bar sales were a meager $17.
“We can probably keep going with the bar until at least Christmas. Come January, it is going to be very interesting what we do.”
Charging groups like Girls Guides and Boys Scouts to use the facility isn’t an option.
For now, with a busy month and a half ahead with charitable work and bookings, the club is hedging its bets — and its future — on the Friday night Chase the Ace draw.
“That is going to keep the building going, we hope,” said Arkwell.
But even if the building closes — which is the last resort — the Lions club, itself, and the good work that it does, will go on, he added.
“We’ll just have to meet in a restaurant like some of the other clubs do.”