Legion club closes

Talks to be held to see if the site can still be retained for the community.

It is the end of an era for Honiton as the Royal British Legion Club called it a day after being unable to trade its way out of mounting debts.

The decision was made during a meeting last Friday and saw the club close its doors on Sunday, but staff had hoped they could change their fortunes around in three months.

Town mayor Vernon Whitlock, during a meeting of Honiton Town Council on Monday night, said he will be holding a meeting with branch and regional officers from the Royal British Legion to find out whether the use of the site can be retained for the town and community groups.

He said: “We will be talking to officers to see if there is a possibility of returning the building for the use of the town and community groups.”

The closure has been a devastating blow for staff at the club, as nine people lose their jobs.

Secretary of the club, Belinda Dickens, said: “We had hoped we would be able to trade out of it, but with the way the recession is, there was no chance of that. The debts had been building up gradually over the last 10 years and we got to the stage that it was impossible to trade out of the situation, so we had to make a decision.

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“It is a terrible blow for Honiton. Everyone is devastated. It is such a shame. It is the end of an era.”

More than 100 people attended the meeting on Friday to discuss the club’s future, when the decision was made to close it.

The club’s steward, Vince Palmer, said: “I was a bit surprised the Royal British Legion closed it like it did. A lot of members are gutted by the fact they didn’t have a chance to do anything about it. It will be a great loss to the town.”

Declining trade at the club was a contributing factor as money was not coming in.

Mr Palmer added: “The whole thing is down to a culture change and a change in drinking habits of the younger generation.

“It is sad, but it really is a sign of the times. I am gutted for the staff, who put so much effort into it to keep it going.”

The site is currently owned by the Royal British Legion, which, until now, was run by the Legion Club.

In a statement issued earlier by Honiton Town Council, the Mayor Vernon Whitlock said: “This is a very sad day for Honiton and for all those who have worked so hard to save the club.

“The RBL hall was built by local people, supported by local subscription and is a much-valued resource.

“The building was used by more than 35 organisations, all of whom will now need to find somewhere else to meet. There is already a shortage of venues in Honiton and we will suffer if these groups have to move out of town.”