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VFW post shuts down canteen, citing finances
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8452, struggling with some funding issues, has closed the canteen side of its operation. - photo by Tom Reed

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8452’s bar and restaurant operations have closed, with Quartermaster Tim Hopton citing financial problems.

"Every veterans organization, every nonprofit organization to some extent has been affected (by the economic downturn)," he said Tuesday.

The organization, which operates out of a single-story building at 1955 Delta Drive in Gainesville, has posted a sign on its front door that says "VFW canteen closed until further notice."

"We’re open for our regular, monthly meetings," Hopton said, noting the next one is set for Aug. 3.

James E. Willis Post 8452, which was chartered at a clubhouse at Chicopee Woods in October 1946, opened a new building in November 2007, moving from a location on Browns Bridge Road.

At the time, which was before the economy tanked, the organization’s finances were fairly rosy.

"We’re clear out of debt and have money in the bank," said one of the members, World War II veteran Joe T. Wood Sr., at the time.

Hopton, a 30-year-old Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan, said delays in getting an alcohol license also compounded problems for the post.

"It’s cumulative problems," he said.

Other issues have beleaguered the 197-member post, which is also undergoing a restructuring.

"Some of the officers are being changed out and new officers are being brought in," Hopton said.

Restructuring will be the focus of the Aug. 3 meeting, which is set to begin at 7 p.m.

He said he would like to see the bar return at some point, "pending getting financing."

Brad’s Vets Grill, which had operated at the location, "has been shut down as well," Hopton said, adding that its return "is up in the air."

"Either way, the VFW is always going to be there," Hopton said. "... The only function of a bar in a VFW is to raise additional income, which it didn’t do."

"There’s a lot of misconceptions, especially in Hall County, that the VFW is just a place to go and drink and get drunk," he said. "But the reality is it’s there to help veterans of a foreign war. We’ve done a lot of charitable acts; we’ve raised money for (an) orphanage.

"Over the three years I’ve been involved, we’ve helped veterans who have been out of work — we’ve had some who have been about to be put out on the street. We gave them money. Right now, we need some money, unfortunately."