Loyal Order of Moose faces possible eviction from lodge

Lance Shearer
The Moose Lodge on Marco Lake Drive used to house the Marco Polo restaurant. The Marco Island Moose Lodge held a private town hall meeting Wednesday evening to deal with the possible loss of their lodge headquarters due to lack of funds.

Moose in the wild are notoriously shy creatures. Moose on Marco Island – that is, members and officials of the Loyal Order of the Moose, Marco Island Moose Lodge number 1990, are equally reluctant to appear in public.

But there is trouble in Moose world, from the few pieces of information, dropped like scat, that penetrated to the outside world. James Kelly III, the administrator of the Moose Lodge, had little to say when contacted by a reporter.

“It’s a shame people are only interested when difficulties arise. The Moose helps kids and seniors – we’re all about community service, and we maintain a lot of facilities,” he said.

The Moose headquarters facility on Marco Lodge is apparently at risk of being foreclosed on, per an email that went out to Moose and Women of the Moose on July 17.

“We are currently in default of our lease on our lodge home due to lack of funds,” said the message signed “Board of Officers.” The purchase option the fraternity had had on the lodge, in the space formerly occupied by the Marco Polo restaurant at 30 Marco Lake Drive, is “now null and void.

The Marco Island Moose Lodge held a private town hall meeting Wednesday evening to deal with the possible loss of their lodge headquarters due to lack of funds.

“We are in the process of asking our landlord to postpone any eviction actions until midnight September 30, 2019, in order to give us an opportunity to obtain private financing in the amount of $1,500,000.00. This amount covers the purchase of property from the landlord and pays off our private investors.”

The email announced an “urgent town hall/special meeting” to be held July 24 at the Moose lodge, “to inform all members of the situation and attempt to secure private financing for the building. If we are unable to secure financing by September 30, we will be forced to vacate the premises at that time, if the landlord agrees to that, which is not a given at this point.”

The Eagle contacted Tom Naifeh, former restaurateur at Marco Polo and at least partial landlord of the property, but he said he was not at liberty to speak on the situation.

“My attorney has told me not to make any comments on this,” he said.

Administrator Kelly, said in the blast email to members to be stepping down at the end of July, referred questions to Moose International territorial manager Bolton Bunting. Bunting, in turn, said he was “not authorized to speak to the press on any Moose International matter,” and directed a reporter to the Moose headquarters in Illinois.

There, a representative said that the Marco Moose lodge has 648 active members but referred additional questions to Byron Dalton in the governor general’s office, who did not return phone messages. The newsletter on the Moose lodge website had not been updated since Sept. 2017. Phone calls to several lodge officers were not returned.

Attendance at Wednesday’ meeting was restricted to members of the local Moose Lodge. A gentleman outside the front door said the bar was shut down an hour before the 7 p.m. meeting.

“They say they need money. They have all these people wanting to spend money and they won’t serve them,” commented one of the Women of the Moose members, having a last cigarette outside before the meeting.

Former members and some current members have been critical of the management of the organization, although none would go on the record.

“I heard they’re not making their payments. I heard the national organization is going to pay it off,” said one former member.

“I have no idea what went on last night. They’ll probably close,” said one current member who attended the meeting. “I do know they’re in trouble. There’s a lot of money that’s just gone.”

The Moose Lodge has moved around in past years, including another location just down the street on Marco Lake Drive, and another on South Collier before settling at the current lodge.