Dover Elks Lodge No. 1125 remains closed — for now

DOVER — Just when it appeared as if the shuttered Dover Elks Lodge No. 1125 at 217 N. Kirkwood St., might be getting on the path toward possibly reopening, its plans fell to the wayside — at least temporarily.

A conditional use application filed with the City of Dover on behalf of the Pride of Dover Elks Lodge was not heard by the Planning Commission at a meeting on Dec. 18 “at the request of the applicant to defer consideration.”

Roy Sudler

“They pulled it because they did not feel they had a solid plan for resuming operations that they were (pursuing),” City Planner Dave Hugg said. “They did not provide any timeline for reapplying.”

Dover Councilmen Roy Sudler Jr. and David Anderson both said they are glad for their constituents that the often crime-plagued facility will remain closed and quiet, at least for now.

Both vow to fight any attempt at reopening the lodge.

The Pride of Dover Elks Lodge was shut down in early January 2017 by city and state officials due to “nonconforming use.”

“My objective is to uproot the Dover Elks Lodge No. 1125 from the Kirkwood community and secure the desire and safety of my constituents, while increasing the accountability of property owner’s activity that transpires on their premises,” Councilman Sudler said.

In a letter to one of his constituents, Councilman Anderson wrote that he will fight against the reopening of the Elks Lodge if that’s what the people want.

“I assure you that as long as the community opposes reopening, I will (fight it),” he wrote. “Sadly, they were not good neighbors who were caught breaking both their agreement with us and the law regarding the serving of alcoholic beverages to nonmembers and guests.

“I believe they need to sell and move to a more appropriate location. I hope the neighbors make their voices heard.”

Willie M. Alexander Jr., Exalted Ruler of the Pride of Dover Elks Lodge, attended the Dover City Council meeting on Feb. 13, 2017, along with Harold Mack, the Elks Lodge’s secretary, and Carlton Stanley, president of the Tri-State Association for The Improved Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks of the World Inc., which covers Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia.

They insisted that the Pride of Dover Elks Lodge has established its place in the community.

During the public forum preceding the city council meeting, Mr. Mack informed city council members that the Pride of Dover had been in existence since 1944 and had undergone many changes.

“The Lodge remained a reminder to everyone that its African American heritage has had a profound effect on those who partake in it, including the city of Dover community,” Mr. Mack said. “There was a zoning violation and we are trying to work with the police chief, the administration and others so that all could come together working for the community as a whole.”

Mr. Mack then explained that the Elks Lodge wanted to do whatever they needed to do to bring a state of resolution to the issue and move forward.

“I hope you find room in your hearts for resolution,” he said.

Leaders of the Elks Lodge on Kirkwood Street are hoping to reopen the club so that it can be “utilized as an annual membership club serving members and their guests.”

Councilman Sudler scoffed at that idea, stating that the Dover Elks Lodge has already “misused” their previous conditional use permit and “functioned as a public club rather than a private membership club, which they said they were doing, which was proven to not be the case. The Elks Lodge’s dishonesty cannot be ignored.”

He also pointed to lower crime rates around the Pride of Dover Elks Lodge since it has been closed.

He requested the Dover Police Department send him some statistics regarding crime on North Kirkwood Street from the months of January through June of 2016 and the same time frame from this year, during which time the Elks Lodge was closed.

He said the figures he received from Dover Police Chief Marvin Mailey indicated that criminal complaints on the street had declined by 81 percent since the closing of the club.

The police report showed that 25 out of 48 of the complaints from January through June 2016 were from 217 N. Kirkwood St., the Elks Lodge’s address, which accounted for 52 percent of the total complaints on the street for that period.

Conversely, there was only one complaint from that address in the same period for 2017. It was for an alarm and it accounts for 11 percent of the total complaints on the street for that period.

“According to the majority of Kirkwood community members, they are not only still opposed to the idea of the lodge reopening, but are furious with the Elks Lodge No. 1125 for aggressively (pursuing) reopening after they have been psychologically held hostage every Thursday and Sunday night from 8 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. that they are open,” Councilman Sudler said.

“The statistical analysis indicates that Elks Lodge No. 1125 significantly contributed to the large quantity of criminal activity and deviant behavior that jeopardized the welfare and public safety of the Kirkwood community and surrounding areas in central Dover.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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