ANAF supporters weigh options, seek solutions

Ucluelet’s ANAF clubhouse was shutdown during a meeting of its executive last week but a group of locals are gauging the community’s interest in bringing it back to life.

Kasia Kromka, Cody Naples, Bronwyn Kelleher and Dave Brown were in attendance for last week’s vote and aren’t ready to accept the executive’s decision as final just yet.

“We’re a really small town and we already don’t have enough

venues or places for people just to hang out,” Kromka said “We are part of the younger generation that doesn’t want everybody to sit in their house on the Internet all day…we’d rather people go outside and hang out with the community.”

The executive was forced to shut down the clubhouse because of roughly $18,300 worth of debt and an inability to afford the required $6,000 insurance.

Kromka left last week’s meeting excited to start raising money to save the clubhouse but has since tempered her expectations.

“Initially after the meeting we were stoked and were like ‘yes, let’s raise the money, let’s make this happen… We have a lot of ideas to do diverse events and just take over and go on,'” she said.

“However, seeing the lack of support we’ve been getting at events (and) at the meeting… That was kind of the last meeting ever and they said ‘please show your support’ but nobody really showed up.”

She said the lack of attendance has her concerned over raising nearly $20,000 for a

potentially lost cause because if the clubhouse reopens and no one shows up, the efforts will have been for naught.

“That’s a lot of money to just throw at a dead horse basically,” she said. “We’re hoping within the next week to drum up some information and get public input.” She said significant fundraising efforts could be initiated if enough people sign on to the idea of saving the clubhouse and if enough money is raised the ANAF executive would call a general meeting and put the clubhouse’s fate in membership’s hands.

“Ideally what would happen is we make the money, we have the $20,000 happen, and then the board reconvenes and we get some new people at the general meeting and they decide not to sell it,”

Kromka said.

“If they decide not to sell it and we manage to diversify some events, and also diversify the board, maybe it will be fine.”

She believes the venue could cater to both younger and older generations and added the community’s seniors have few options for hanging out downtown.

“There’s history attached to the Army and Navy and if we can bring back some of those events that reminisce the past why not? Maybe they’ll start coming out and we’ll get, not only the young people motivated to come out, but also the older crowd that used to come out for ice-cream socials and steak nights and all that stuff,” she said.

The group of ANAF supporters hosted a table during last week’s Friday Night Market and also planned to set up a table at the Co-op this week to bring locals up to speed on what’s going on and what can be done.

Life-long local Bronwyn Kelleher manned Friday’s market table.

She recalled a time when the ANAF was booming and suggested a drop in cash flow and comradery brought on the drop in patronage.

“We used to be an industry town, logging and fishing were huge and there was an excess of money. Also, being logging and fishing like that it was more of a community. People worked together, lived together, partied together,” she said.

“People aren’t going out as much, whereas before it was year-round consistent employment with a good wage so you had extra

income that you could go out with.”

She said Ucluelet has become segmented as locals work all-out in the summer months and then hunker down or travel in the winter.

“We’ve gone from being an industry town looking in on itself to a tourist town that’s looking out of itself to try to bring things in. We’ve lost that community part,” she said.

“The Army and Navy is not for tourists, the Army and Navy is for locals, and honestly this entire town is geared towards tourists; we don’t do anything for ourselves here anymore.”

She suggested locals might not have understood the ANAF’s potential while it was operating and said it could be much more than a music venue.

“People are like ‘I don’t want to go out on a Friday night to some loud show that’s not my bag of tricks’ but there’s a million other things that could be done,” she said.

“It’s an intimate setting for small gatherings…The Army and Navy was waiting for somebody to walk through the doors and pick up this great idea and run with it.”

She hopes the town’s younger generation gets on board with saving the venue.

“I would hope that the 20-somethings and 30-somethings in this town could step up and realize that this venue has so much to offer and it would be a shame to lose it,” she said.

Dave Brown is a local musician who has enjoyed playing at the ANAF for the past six years and is willing to organize fundraising concerts to open its doors back up.

“If you expect people to come here and work for the summer… to support the tourism industry, which is the biggest source of income for the town, we need places for them to go shake it off and have some fun,” he said.

“If we continuously let venues slide for lack of interest or lack of volunteer work by the community, then we’re not going to be able to entice the workers out here that we need to support our tourism economy.”

He said veterans’ clubs like the ANAF allow “post traumatic stress disorder suffering veterans to have a place to go in society to feel welcome,” and added, “We’ve been in conflicts overseas for the last 15-plus years (and) we’re going to have a lot of PTSD vets that are going to need a place to be.”

reporter@westerlynews.ca