Rumor and innuendo have swirled around Whitesell-Finnell VFW Post No 971 recently — getting into full swing when what was once a bar was converted into a “canteen.” Gone are the post liquor license and much of the semblances of a bar.
“The post is going through some rough times,” said David Crow, district commander for Kansas VFW District No. 5. “We are trying to take a step back and reorganize.”
Crow is former commander at the post, taking the district commander position several months ago.
The post has hit a rough spot — one Crow said is the result of a several factors including “bad management.”
There has also been a loss of members.
In a four-year time span the post has lost about 70 members — the bulk of which were older members who served in World War II and the Korean Conflict. Younger members have not come forward to join the post.
In addition, the bar has not been serving as a profit center for the post and there are, according to Crow, management issues that have led to the post struggles. According to the Kansas Department of Revenue, the post fell behind on liquor taxes, leading to a revocation of the post's state liquor license. Once those taxes are resolved, a new license can be applied for.
“We may have to through the courts, but we really do not want that,” Crow said.
With losses mounting, insult was added to injury this summer when key air conditioning units for the building on SE Third stopped working.
“After about four weeks we found the guy we needed, and he is getting that fixed,” Crow said.
The liquor license issue came up in September. Crow told The Kansan the VFW chose to not renew that license, and began to disassemble what was a bar. The city of Newton confirmed the VFW did not reapply for a city license.
Crow told The Kansan letting go of the liquor license was primarily a financial decision.
“The silver lining is that all our stuff is open to the public right now,” Crow said. “We are trying to get more public involvement. … We were forgetting what we were about. We were spending money on the bar and forgot we we are about helping veterans and people.”
The lack of a liquor license has caused the move of at least one event — the annual Harvey County Toy Run will move to the American Legion this year. The VFW Auxiliary will still, however, provide chili for the annual chili feed at the end of the toy run.
The post is still maintaining a schedule of events — evening dinners, Bingo nights, and an upcoming Veteran's Day remembrance are still on the calendar. The post is also continuing scholarship programs and contests.
“The organization is not going anywhere, the building is not going anywhere. … We are planning for the future,” Crow said. “Sometimes you have to reroute, and that is what we are doing right now.”