The old Whalley Legion building has been torn down to make way for the $66-million Legion Veterans Village, but it seems the group’s temporary home is a bit too far for its liquor license to transfer.
“We were half a block too far or something like that,” explained Tony Moore, president of the Whalley Legion Branch 229.
“I can’t resume until I actually get a stamped license from them, even though I just had to pay for the license at the old place. I have a license for that (old) property, but I can’t serve a beer where I’m at now,” he said, with the exception of a few events for which the legion has received “special event” licenses for the day.
“We have our regular older veterans that come in everyday, they come everyday, knock on the door if they see my vehicle or other vehicles out there, they’ll say ‘Are we open yet?’ I say, ‘Well you can come in have a cup of coffee.’ It’s a bit of a senior centre for the older guys.”
The Whalley Legion has moved into a building that once housed the Tokachi Japanese Restaurant at 10767 King George Blvd. as it waits for the Veterans Village to be built.
The new space is about a third of the size of the Whalley Legion’s longtime home, at 13525 106th Ave., where it operated since 1948.
Moore told the Now-Leader he contacted Surrey-Whalley MLA Bruce Ralston and other politicians to get help in speeding things up in licensing the new location and was told it could take as long as nine months as “there’s a big line-up.”
There didn’t seem to be much traction, however, said Moore.
“I said, ‘For God’s sake, we’re only moving a block and a half down the street.”
But “just five minutes” before he spoke to the Now-Leader on Tuesday, Moore said a liquor inspector called and is set to be at the site on Thursday (July 18) to do a final inspection.
“But everybody’s been fantastic,” said Moore. “It was just the bureaucracy at the liquor department. We’re veterans, we’ve been 60 years with the same license at the same place, and there’s all this rigmarole to see if the neighbourhood wants us. Everybody’s behind us, I just laugh.”
Moore praised the City of Surrey for “pushing through” their end, and said “if we get this license in the next few days, even Victoria came to the plate in the end.”
The legion stopped serving alcohol in its old building on April 21 and Moore is hopeful the new license will be approved by July 22.
“That’ll be three months from the day we stopped serving,” he noted.
Meantime, Moore said the Veterans Village project is moving ahead. With the old Whalley Legion building now demolished, digging is set to begin.
The project was initiated by the Royal Canadian Legion BC/Yukon Command (BC/Yukon Command), the Whalley Legion Branch 229, and the Lark Group. It will be Canada’s first Centre of Excellence for veterans and first responders that focuses on post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mental health.
It will also be an “Innovation Centre for Rehabilitation,” offering clinical rehabilitation services, research and the delivery of health care programs, services and trauma counseling for PTSD and mental health, which includes advanced evidence-based services and programming in health, science and engineering, including innovations in robotics, assistive devices and technologies for injured veterans and first responders.
And, of course, it will house the Whalley Legion.
Moore said the project will be a “real game-changer,” not only for veterans, but also for the wider Whalley community.