The Langley City Legion branch has closed its lounge and is relocating. The decision was made Saturday Sept. 19. Branch 21 will continue to offer services to veterans. The annual poppy campaign and Remembrance Day ceremony will also go ahead this autumn.

The Langley City Legion branch has closed its lounge and is relocating. The decision was made Saturday Sept. 19. Branch 21 will continue to offer services to veterans. The annual poppy campaign and Remembrance Day ceremony will also go ahead this autumn.

End of an era for Langley Legion

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 21 forced to close lounge because it was ‘bleeding money’ says regional executive director

The Langley branch of the Royal Canadian Legion has closed the second-floor lounge it operates at 20570 56 Ave.

The decision was made at a Saturday, Sept. 19 meeting, and took effect the next day.

Employees have been laid off and the branch is looking for office space to operate its annual poppy campaign and provide space for a local service officer.

“It is with sadness that we have to announce that the Langley Legion will be closing its doors,” said an online statement by David Brocklehurst, Branch 21 First Vice President.

The message posted at langleylegion.com said the legion will continue operating as a service branch.

Brocklehurst said this year’s poppy campaign will go ahead as planned and so will the Remembrance Day parade.

A Branch 21 membership meeting has been scheduled for Monday Sept. 28.

Inga Kruse, executive director of the Legion’s B.C./Yukon Command, called the shutdown a “tragedy.”

“It’s a terrible, terrible thing.”

The Langley City branch will keep its Legion charter, Kruse said.

“The last thing veterans need is one less branch.”

Kruse said the volunteers who managed the branch did everything they could to make a go of it, but could not overcome a combination of declining membership and higher-than-expected expenses.

“They’ve been trying so hard,” Kruse said.

“They’re good people and they work hard.”

Until Branch 21 opens its new office, concerned members are advised to contact the regional branch at 604-575-8840 if they need assistance, Kruse said.

Kruse said the branch was under “probationary management” for several years, a situation where the regional command exercises more supervision than usual.

“It was bleeding money,” Kruse said.

“It couldn’t make a go of it as a business in that area.”

She declined to discuss the financial details, but previous reports show  problems at the branch were worsened by an attempt to save money through relocating from its former home on nearby Eastleigh Crescent to the smaller 56 Ave. location in 2010.

If it had gone as planned, the branch would have had a substantial amount of money in the bank, but instead the organization ended up $200,000 in the hole and carrying a large mortgage.

That’s because the Legion had planned to spend between $400,000 and $700,000 on renovations and upgrading to its new property, but it turned out that the building they purchased needed more than $1 million in improvements.

That was more than they’d paid for the property itself.

A 2011 report by the then-financial officer of the Langley City branch predicted a shutdown was imminent.

“I foresee our doors closing in the very near future,” Jerry Gibbons wrote in the organization’s newsletter, 21 Gun Salute.

In the same issue, Gail Reid, then-president of the Legion branch noted that of the Legion’s 800 members, only about 50 are active.