The future of the Moose Lodge in Brainerd remains uncertain.
The Moose Lodge this week informed the Brainerd Rotary Club and the Brainerd Sports Boosters that the lodge could no longer host any non-member events, such as club luncheon meetings.
Jim Hartley, a former Moose Lodge officer in Brainerd, said today, "I'm no longer an officer here; therefore, I cannot speak for the Moose."
When asked whether the Moose Lodge remains open, he said, "I really don't know."
Glenn Garbers, the Loyal Order of Moose regional director for Minnesota and Wisconsin, said non-member events at the Brainerd Moose Lodge came to his attention after more than 30 Brainerd Rotary Club members became ill after a December luncheon meeting at the Moose Lodge.
Representatives of the Brainerd Sports Boosters were told Wednesday night that the club could no longer hold its Thursday luncheon meeting at the Moose Lodge. Today's meeting was canceled.
Jeff Hilborn, past president of the Brainerd Sports Boosters, said he was searching today for an alternative site for the club's meetings.
"I'm just trying to figure out where we are going to meet," Hilborn said.
He said the Moose Lodge was a good, convenient location for the club's meetings. "We feel it's unfortunate we can't continue to meet there," he said. "It really worked out well for our members."
Kevin Thesing, Brainerd Rotary Club president, said that club is reviewing several options in regard to a meeting site. "There's a lack of meeting room space to accommodate large groups in Brainerd," he said.
Lisa Paxton, Brainerd Lakes Area Chambers of Commerce chief executive officer, said, "The daytime meeting space in the Brainerd lakes area is limited for lunches and club meetings for groups as large as the Sports Boosters and the Rotary. It's unfortunate we're losing a venue like the Moose Lodge."
She said she believes the meeting space problem will be resolved.
Garbers, based in La Crosse, Wis., said the national organization told the Brainerd Moose Lodge it can no longer host non-member events. "We're a members-only organization."
He said the Moose Lodge rules dictate members only can book events. For instance, a member can use the Moose Lodge to host a family function, such as a wedding reception.
Garbers said it has always been a policy of the Moose organization not to accept income from non-members.
He said a meeting is planned in Brainerd tonight to discuss the future of Brainerd's Moose Lodge.
He said some Brainerd members feel the Moose Lodge cannot operate without catering to the public through non-member events. "We don't allow that," Garbers said.
He said he hopes the Moose Lodge will remain open in Brainerd and operate under the lodge's general rules.
"We're not there to take lodges out," he said. "We're there to work with the people."
Garbers said opening a Moose Lodge to public events jeopardizes the tax status of the non-profit fraternal organization.
"It's always easy to have your doors open," he said. "That puts us on the tax rolls real fast."
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