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VFW post faces struggles due to COVID-related bar restrictions

The largest Veteran of Foreign Wars post in Nevada has struggled since the state’s bar restrictions were imposed because of the pandemic. But with bars reopening in Clark County at midnight Sunday, there’s hope that things will get better.

Since March, VFW Post 10047 in North Las Vegas, which has 1,400 members, has had difficulty paying its bills because its canteen was its main source of fundraising, said Bob Anderson, junior vice commander.

The post adapted to the restrictions by selling food along with the alcoholic beverages, only allowing half capacity in the venue, requiring masks and only having every other gambling machine available. But the regular clientele and members failed to show up in fear of the virus, said Anderson.

Henry “Butch” Beltran, state commander for the VFW, recalled on Friday the turnout now compared with before the pandemic.

“Friday nights, it would be probably 100 people in here; this was a packed house when we had karaoke nights,” Beltran said. “But the COVID shut it down. And now people won’t even do karaoke because everybody’s afraid.”

The post’s monthly bills of about $15,000 include a $6,000 mortgage, utilities, liquor and the employees who ran the canteen, who were terminated when the canteen shut down.

To make ends meet, the post raised the price of beer from $2 to $3 and advertised steak fry specials and movie nights for $15 per ticket. Only about five patrons turned out to the movie nights and the post received complaints about the beer prices, Anderson said.

Post commander Leslie Stoval was able to negotiate with the mortgage company for a grace period for payments, but because VFW posts are nonprofits, they can not apply for small-business loans or grants, Beltran said.

Most recently the post has moved to renting out its facility to private events, including weddings, dinners and fellow posts’ meetings.

In addition to members staying away from social gatherings at the canteen, Post 10047 has been unable to hold its monthly meetings, which Beltran says has hurt veterans’ mental health. Beltran, who keeps a statewide focus on veteran suicide prevention, said that necessary outreach, transportation and mental health support are difficult to provide when veterans are restricted at home, even with video calls.

Hoping for upturn

The camaraderie and morale also have been hurt during the closure of the canteen, but with the bar restrictions being lifted, Beltran said he hopes the posts can heal.

He is getting a head start at his homecoming event Saturday at the post’s back hall, which has been in the works for three months. It will be the first event at the post that will have about 100 people since the initial closure, still below the hall’s 250-person capacity.

“It’s one of those things that people don’t seem to understand that just because the post has a canteen doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a place to go get drunk, because that’s not what it’s all about,” Beltran said. “It’s about the camaraderie, socializing with your brothers.”

Contact Jannelle Calderon at jcalderon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @NewsyJan on Twitter.

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