Eagles club to take over longtime Lawrence bar and grill location in early 2019
photo by: Nick Krug
A longtime Lawrence bar and restaurant building that once was home to a fake club soon will be home to a real private club. The building at 530 Wisconsin St., which used to house The Yacht Club, will become the new home for the Eagles club in early 2019.
If you have forgotten, The Yacht Club was a longtime college bar and grill, but it wasn’t actually a private club. Come to find out, you didn’t need to wear one of those pretty white sailor hats to get in, either. (It would get you plenty of attention, though.) The Mt. Oread Fraternal Order of Eagles, though, is an actual private club, and one of its officers said it is excited to take over the building.
“It is a perfect fit for us,” said Dan Narcomey, a trustee and secretary for the Eagles. “We can walk right in and turn the key and begin operating, once we get all of our licenses restored.”
Narcomey said the club hoped to open in early February.
For decades, the Eagles club was located not too far from the new site, on the other side of Sixth Street. It had a massive club building behind the Dollar General store, about a block east of Sixth and Iowa streets. But, as we reported, that building has been purchased and is being renovated into medical office space for Panda Pediatrics.
For several months, the Eagles have been without a home of their own and have been holding their meetings in a west Lawrence bar and grill. Narcomey said the Eagles had their eye on the Yacht Club building for years, but weren’t in a position to purchase the building the last time it became available. Instead, a Topeka-based business — Bar’N Grill — purchased the building. However, as we’ve reported, it closed its Lawrence location a couple of months ago, and this time the Eagles club was in a position to purchase the building after having sold its former clubhouse.
Narcomey said the club was still deciding what it would offer in the new building, but bingo fans may be disappointed. The club for years opened its doors to the general public for a weekly night of bingo. Narcomey, though, said the club doubts the new location would be large enough to host the bingo games.
He said the club also was still deciding what it would do in terms of food service. At its old location, the club used to have special food nights, such as steak and salmon dinners. The new building is equipped with a full kitchen, so Narcomey said he thought it was likely that some sort of food service would remain.
One thing that is certain to remain is the bar-and-lounge aspect. That is one of the big draws for club membership.
“We really try to make it a good place to relax,” Narcomey said.
Because the business is a private club, the place can offer a little different atmosphere from a traditional bar and grill, Narcomey said. The club aspect makes it more likely that everybody knows one another, and that enables different types of fellowship.
For example, prior to its closing, club members had started hosting their own Lodge Olympics. Groups of friends would form their own team — even adopting their own country and flag — and would compete in events like pool, shuffleboard, Wii bowling, and board games.
“It got pretty comical at times,” Narcomey said.
Membership in the Eagles club, however, is not designed to be difficult to obtain. The club charges a $50 annual membership fee, and prospective members are asked a few questions to ensure that both the club and the prospective member have something to offer each other.
Part of the idea behind the club, which operates as a nonprofit entity, is community service. In years past, club members have hosted toy drives for the Blue Santa program, diaper drives for the Willow Center, barbecue competitions for charity fundraisers and several other events.
Narcomey said the club hoped the new building would spur a surge in membership. He estimated the club has about 140 members, with half of them being pretty active members. While private clubs were once popular, especially decades ago when they were one of the few places that could serve hard liquor, their numbers have dwindled in recent years. The Eagles, the American Legion and the VFW are among the few that are left in Lawrence with active clubhouses and lounges. The Eagles’ purchase of the building, though, should send a message to prospective members that the club is committed to remaining active, Narcomey said.
“We don’t plan on closing anytime soon,” he said.