The veterans of American Legion Post 189 no longer have a building to call their own, but they continue to have a home in Farmington.
They sold their building earlier this month, a result of a bankruptcy settlement by the Legion. The group's financial struggles had begun a few years earlier, when it was unable to pay debt incurred when it rebuilt after a costly fire.
The new owners are operating the property as Tailgaters Sports Bar & Grill. But under a leasing arrangement, the veterans still have space in the building for their meetings, omelette breakfasts and charitable gambling events, said Joanne Meide, Legion assistant manager.
"It's been tough losing our building, but [the new owners] really helped us out," Meide said. "Otherwise we'd be closed, and there wouldn't be any part of Post 189 any more." The Legion has about 280 members, plus another 120 in the Sons of American Legion and Women's Auxiliary. It had owned and occupied the Farmington property for about 20 years.
A private investors group, HCJ Corp., paid $840,000 for the 12,000-square-foot building, less than the $1 million it had cost Post 189 to rebuild after the fire. The Legion wound up filing for bankruptcy last fall after Highland Bank called due an $800,000 construction loan.
Craig Loeschke, an HCJ partner, said he had discovered that the veterans were considering selling their building about six months ago when he was looking for franchising opportunities in Farmington. He said he had suffered some losses in his retirement savings account and was looking for something he could control that also would rebuild his nest egg. "I wanted to find something like a sandwich shop, but I wasn't finding anything that included the equipment that I could afford," he said.
HCJ's purchase of the Legion building includes equipment and furnishings, much of it new because it had only recently been bought by Post 189 after the fire, Loeschke said. "About all I had to do was put up a new sign," he said. Loeschke said he'll eventually do some painting and other modest renovations at the restaurant and bar, which seats about 240.
Loeschke, 43, worked as a cook when he was in the U.S. Navy but is serving as Tailgaters general manager. One of his partners, Jon Nissen, was the kitchen manager for Post 189 and is continuing in that role with the new business.
Tailgaters has been open only since Aug. 3, but Loeschke said the flow of customer traffic has been very good. He said he also likes the fact that he can collect some rental revenue from the Legion for using space for bingo, pulltabs and other events. "It has worked out much better than just taking the building," he said. "This keeps them surviving."
Susan Feyder 952-746-3282