Limited use of Cayucos veterans hall could be restored by next week

What the loss of Cayucos' veterans hall would mean for the community

Breck Smith, Cayucos Lions Club president, talks about how a closure of the Cayucos veterans hall would impact the community.
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Breck Smith, Cayucos Lions Club president, talks about how a closure of the Cayucos veterans hall would impact the community.

Although the Cayucos Veterans Memorial Lions Hall was closed Wednesday for safety reasons, San Luis Obispo County officials have come up with a plan that would provide limited public use of the facility as early as next week.

The plan is to install a tent on the hall’s patio that can accommodate as many as 100 people and reopen the hall’s kitchen and restrooms.

The restrooms will require the installation of some new support structures, but that work is expected to be completed late next week.

“It won’t be everything the veterans hall was, but we will be pushing forward to get this problem solved,” said San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Bruce Gibson, whose district includes Cayucos.

However, a complete retrofit of the building to restore it to full use will take an estimated two years or more to finish. Reopening is tentatively set for the summer of 2018.

Recent structural inspections found the roof and walls of the building, constructed in the 1800s, could collapse in the event of an earthquake or powerful windstorm.

“It may take two years, but it will get done eventually,” said Dave Flynn, deputy director of county public works.

Bit of good news

The key to quickly restoring use of the kitchen and restrooms is the fact that both facilities have doors to the outside and people will not have to enter the main building to access them, Flynn said.

The kitchen is in a separate outbuilding that does not have the same structural problems as the main building.

The restrooms are in the main building but can be made safe by installing temporary supports.

The county parks department will install a 30-foot-by-60-foot event tent on the patio behind the hall next to the barbecue pits. This will provide about half the floor space of the interior hall.

“It will be able to accommodate events of 100 people seated,” Flynn said.

These plans were outlined at a Wednesday evening meeting of the Cayucos Citizens Advisory Council at Cayucos Elementary School. The meeting drew about 200 people.

Breck Smith, president of the Cayucos Lions Club, which handles the day-to-day management of the hall, said some people are still upset by the hall’s closure, but he is relieved the county is developing a plan for repairs, he said.

The hall is used heavily by the public, with more than 40 private events and more than 100 public events booked through the remainder of the calendar year.

“It was a painful decision to close the hall, but the right decision,” Smith said.

Bride in the lurch

That decision has put bride Heather Kush of Pismo Beach in a bind. She and fiance LeAire Griffin were planning on getting married at the Veterans Hall on May 15. She learned about the closure by reading about it in The Tribune.

“Finding out about it that way was a real shock,” she said. “Everything up to this point was going so well.”

Kush is considering all her options — including renting the Veterans Hall patio as well as using one of the two parks in Cayucos, Hardie Park and Paul Andrew Park — but has made no definite plans.

If the restrooms in the Veterans Hall are not stabilized by her wedding day, she would have to use the restrooms at the end of the pier — not a practical option in her wedding gown.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said. “It’s only 10 days away, and I’ve already called all the most affordable places.”

Retrofit process

Meanwhile, the county is moving ahead with developing a restoration plan for the hall. It has as much as $363,000 in funds available to develop the plans, a process that should take about six months.

“It’s very complicated,” Supervisor Gibson said. “The hall is owned by the state, maintained by the county and managed by the Cayucos Lions Club, a private nonprofit group, and all of those entities need to coordinate planning.”

Then it will be a matter of lining up the funding to do the restoration, a sum that is yet to be determined.

Grants, county general fund money and community fundraising are all options that will be considered, Flynn said.

“We should have a funding plan in place by the end of the year,” he said. “We expect construction to take about 200 days once we get to that point.”

Gibson said that restoration of the Cayucos Veterans Hall will be a top priority for his office. The hall generates significant amounts of sales and bed taxes for the county, money that could decline during the closure.

“The county needs to step up,” he said. “The hall is the heart of the community.”

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