ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (KRQE) – As breweries, restaurants, and retailers get the go-ahead from the state to reopen during the pandemic, VFW and American Legion posts are wondering when it will be their turn. The canteen manager of VFW Post 7686 in Alamogordo recently wrote Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to consider letting her post open.
“The virus is a very real crisis. But we need to, we need to factor in everything. Restaurants versus a private club that only veterans and their families can get into…it just seems like some equality and that’s the big reason for penning the governor,” Windy Townsend, canteen manager at VFW Post 7686 said.
In the letter, Townsend tells the governor they can open safely with spaced out tables and since the club is private, and not open to the public. Townsend said revenue from the post’s canteen helps support veteran causes like VA assistance, utility assistance, or food bank items. In the letter, she tells the governor the non-profit isn’t just a place where veterans ‘come in and get drunk,’ but rather a safe space and resource for them.
“We’re willing to comply with restrictions and CDC guidelines and the Department of Health guidelines and whatnot, but we really need to have a place for these veterans to go to. It’s more than a social atmosphere, for some of them it’s therapy,” Townsend said.
“They have conversations with other veterans about the experiences they endured. They are in a safe place where they don’t have to have their backs against the wall to feel safe. The canteen is their safe place. Whether it be for a coke and a game of pool, a beer and a game on TV or to just relax and decompress a little,” she wrote in the letter.
While some VFW and American Legion posts, which is another non-profit organization that supports veterans, are able to do curbside food pick-up, most are completely closed since the state considers them bars. Bars are still closed under the current public health order.
In an emailed statement, the state’s Department of Health, said this in part:
Bars and breweries are not the same thing. Breweries have different licenses and they are much more like restaurants than they are bars. Breweries often have drink limits and the time people spend there is not as long. Bars – and the potential for intoxication that comes with them – are not conducive to any kind of safe social distancing.
The state said bars, which would include VFWs and American Legion Posts, are likely among the businesses to open in the next phase, but there is no set date on when that phase will begin. The state said that depends on the spread of COVID-19 and specifically, “our individual decisions to social distance and wear facemasks when in public.”
The American Legion organization also wrote a letter to the state asking to reopen. On Tuesday morning, a number of American Legion posts, VFW posts, and other non-profit veteran organizations are going to the roundhouse for a peaceful demonstration.
To read Townsend’s full letter to the governor, click here.