Austin Elks Lodge to close

Published 9:39 am Tuesday, November 15, 2011

AUSTIN — The Elks Lodge No. 414 is still going, but the Elks Club will soon be no more.

Elks members voted Monday night to close the club in Austin to head off mounting debt.

“We’re staying Elks, we’re just not going to have a club,” said Exalted Ruler Randy Smith of the Elks Lodge.

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The Elks’ money issues have been going on for months, as members would cover one debt while another popped up. It wasn’t until a trustees meeting two weeks ago that Elks leadership realized they couldn’t keep the building open.

Smith doesn’t know the exact amount of debt the lodge is in, but increasing building overhead and loan costs coupled with decreasing bar sales and membership put the Elks in a bind. There’s no overarching debt, but costs like the $1,800 a month in utilities and the $22,000 left on the building’s elevator are adding up. Smith said the Elks Club lost about $15,000 over the past six months, and though there are about 350 Elks members now, there were about 650 members in 2001 and 1,100 members 20 years ago.

Despite the fiscal finangling, Smith said closing the Elks Club will make sure all Elks debt is paid. In addition, the Elks will still volunteer and give charitably to the community, whether it be through the annual Hoop Shoot, scholarships or sending Austin youth up to the Elks summer camp every year.

“We’re still going to do all the things Elks do,” Smith said.

Elks members will put the building for sale, though Smith says there’s already someone interested in the building. Smith said the building’s sale and Elks-owned furniture and other trappings should pay off any extra debts and loans the Elks have.

Once the debts are paid, the Elks may look for another, albeit smaller, place to gather, according to Smith, but such a move is far off.

“It’s too far down in the future to determine what we’re going to do,” he said. “Our main goal right now is to keep our lodge open.”

The Elks Lodge in Albert Lea declared bankruptcy in October 2009 and closed that same month. The building remains vacant.