The presence of Aldergrove legion branch #265 may lay low for much of the year – playing a role in local’s lives come Remembrance Day or the Canada Day parade. But for many – particularly an older crowd of patrons that depend on the hangout for socialization and food – the legion stands as an important fixture in their life.
Restrictions by the Provincial Health Office have clamped down on indoor dining – barring indoor dining until April 19 at the least.
That also includes branch #265, which regularly offers bar service, meals from Helms Kitchen, and a place to simply be.
Any hope of holding events such as a recently cancelled all British edition of name that tune again looks grim.
Branch president Doug Hadley said they’re closed like everyone else under the sun.
Calmed by the fact it’s not just Aldergrove, he noted people are staying home everywhere and every kind of establishment is struggling.
“Our kitchen has been open all along. Food prep is happening down here for the Helms mobile kitchen,” he said.
People can order to go or pop in and purchase a meal, but they just can’t stay to eat their food.
However, plans to make the place COVID-19 safe by allowing outdoor dining are underway.
The grass on the back lawn will be cut, tables and chairs spread out, and even a covered patio area behind the building will get tidied.
Even umbrellas will be going up so guests can be shaded while they eat.
“I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but we’ll be able to fit 170 people,” Hadley said with confidence.
He hopes offering residents a place to sit amid an onslaught of pleasant weather will not only drum up more business for the legion, but help others cope with restrictions and ongoing stress from COVID.
“We’re following rules outlined by the legion for people to come and stay in their bubbles during their visit,” he said, adding all provincial health orders will be strictly enforced.
Hadley and the rest of the crew are happy with the timing; in previous weather, the legion couldn’t even consider outdoor dining.
“Our regulars would even balk at the idea out going outside,” he said. “We looked at investing in heaters, but they just weren’t cost effective.”
A small business payout for the latest newest round of closures will help them stay afloat and pay the tab for the outdoor shift.
“A lot of people are getting vaccinated and we want to alleviate any concerns to make sure they feel safe,” Hadley said.
Far from the bustling place of options it once was, there will be no games for the foreseeable future.
“We have to wait for casinos before we can consider even consider things like darts, crib games, or pool,” Hadley said, noting people will still likely have to play in their own bubble when those activities are allowed.
No matter the timeline, the longer the doors remain closed, the harder it is to keep up a public presence.
“You lose customers if you are closed for any amount of time. That’s the way it is,” Hadley explained.
But he knows the role the legion plays in so many lives, particularly to older veterans and longtime residents who rely on the comforts of tradition and familiarity.
He called the legion an alternative for people who may not feel comfortable at busier establishments like Station House or Fox and Hounds.
He hopes for seniors and other residents who depend on a social aspect, that the outdoor dining option will provide a plentiful space in a small community with few options at the moment.
“Helms Kitchen has also adapted their menu to be more accommodating for seniors,” he added. “They tend to not eat as much so smaller portions like quarter pound hamburgers are available.”
Aldergrove legion branch #265 is located at 26607 Fraser Hwy.
People can find more info and a full menu at Helms Mobile Kitchen on Facebook.
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