City orders Elks Club to close

DOVER — Citing “nonconforming use” this week, city and state officials shut down the Dover Elks Lodge No. 1125 as a club.

Delaware Commissioner of Alcohol John H. Cordrey notified the establishment at 217 N. Kirkwood St. on Thursday of an immediate liquor license suspension, citing earlier notification by the City of Dover about a nonconforming use violation.

City of Dover Director of Planning and Community Development Ann Marie Townshend informed the Office of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissioner that the club was to cease operation until a business certification is received.

Ms. Townshend sent a letter to Willie Alexander of the Elks Club on Wednesday, referencing an Aug. 24, 2016 letter that identified a nonconfirming use according to general residence zoning ordinance.

Also, the City of Dover pointed to an Oct. 20, 2016 meeting with Mr. Alexander, Ms. Townshend and Mayor Robin Christiansen discussing issues.

“At that meeting, you indicated that, contrary to what has been conveyed to the City of Dover, the Pride of Dover Lodge 1125 is open only to members of the lodge and their guests,” Ms. Townshend wrote,

Based on that portrayal in October, Ms. Townshend said the club —officially known as the Pride of Dover Lodge 1125 — was in compliance with city requirements.

The city said, however, it was recently notified of a Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement undercover operation where agents “entered the lodge after paying a cover charge, without being sponsored by a member.

“They proceeded also to purchase alcohol. This is contrary to assurances provided by you and others on behalf of the Lodge, and it documents that the property houses a nonconforming use that is required to comply with the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance.

“Given that this use of the property is now documented as nonconforming, and that the letter sent on Aug. 24, 2016, required the property to be brought into compliance with the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance by Dec. 31, 2016, the Lodge must cease operations immediately.”

Mr. Alexander was not immediately available for comment on Friday.

Applauding the orders

City Councilman Roy Sudler Jr. applauded the moves, pointing to ongoing 4th District constituent complaints regarding safety and security concerns about the Elks Club, and its effect on the surrounding neighborhood.

In a news release, Mr. Sudler pointed to an 18-7 vote by nearby residents on Nov. 2, 2015 to shutter the Elks Club.

“Since then, I have worked diligently to accomplish this task which I was advised by numerous citizens of Dover that many officials in the past have tried to do the same thing and all have failed,” Mr. Sudler said.

According to Mr. Sudler some opposing a shutdown threatened to pull political support if his quest continued and he was “often told that I was putting the ‘Cart before the Horse’ and that it was not the Lodge that was the problem.

“Well. As my grandmother Hattie B. Mishoe would say, ‘The Proof is in the Pudding.’ “

Mr. Sudler believed the Elks Lodge erred by operating as a public club instead of being open to the public.

“The Dover Elks Lodge No. 1125 has been a property nuisance and danger to the public’s well-being for many years and now it’s time for them to relocate and give my constituents on Kirkwood, Cecil, West, Queen and Fulton streets a piece of mind and public safety,” he said.

The councilman called the move “my most difficult but rewarding challenge throughout my community/city council career and I want to say that it would not have been possible without my fellow councilman’s understanding of the severity of my districts concerns and deeming it necessary to take action collectively as one council body.”

Mr. Sudler pointed to the involvement of city council president Tim Slavin and State Rep. Sean Lynn for attending community meetings regarding concerns.

“This is a win for the constituents and a win for city council which only exemplifies what we can get done together,” Mr. Sudler said.

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