Servicemen 'devastated' to hear Royal British Legion Club forced to close (From Enfield Independent)
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Servicemen 'devastated' to hear Royal British Legion Club forced to close
Servicemen are “devastated” to hear a Royal British Legion Club will close at the end of the month after nearly 100 years in the area.
The club, in Holtwhites Hill in Enfield, is being forced by the Royal British Legion to close its doors on Saturday, July 28, after the club has incurred debts of just over £8,300.
Club chairman, Chris Pizzala, 50, broke the news to its 400 members last week – many of whom have retired from the forces and visit the club every single day.
He said: “These people have fought and I am not going without a fight. It is a massive loss to the community and we just think it is the wrong decision to make.
“When I had to tell our members they were just shocked – I expected there would be lots of questions but they were all just gobsmacked.”
Mr Pizalla created a business plan, which he handed to the head office of the Royal British Legion in Borough High Street last month in a bid to save the club from closure.
The plan called for the club to remain open until December to allow time for it to take hold of its finances.
Once the plan was refused, Mr Pizalla, who has chaired the club for two years, even offered to use his own money to pay off the club’s debts, but the Royal British Legion failed to accept.
According to the Royal British Legion, the premises is “too large” for it to supply its current level of trade and they require “immediate payment” of the outstanding debt.
However, members are concerned the building will eventually be sold to developers because the premises is large and in a sought-after location.
President and former chair of the club, Derek Caton, 82, has been a member since it opened in Holtwhites Hill in 1971. The club opened in 1921 in Cecil Road in Enfield before moving to its current location.
Mr Caton, who spent two-and-a-half years in the RAF, said: “The atmosphere at the club is like one big family – they are taking the heart of the community away. The British Legion is looked upon from the whole of Enfield.”
The ex-serviceman, who lives in Perry Mead, said the British Legion Club should have given members more notice before breaking up an institution which has been running in the borough for so many years.
Member Derek Cannel, 74, who lives in Hertford Road, visits every day despite not having served in the forces.
He said: “It is disgusting – they could have given us a bit longer. It is going to affect a lot of people - it will take part of their life away.
“I am devastated. I love it here, I have come up here every day for nearly ten years and now I have got to find other things to do.”
Club secretary 57-year-old Maria Hamer, who has been working at the club for ten years, said: “I haven’t slept since I heard the news. So many people come here – what are they going to do now?”