The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post in Wixom reportedly has given the boot to a pair of organizations that has shared its space at 2652 Loon Lake Road for about 20 years, due to a dispute over a liquor license.
The discord between the VFW, American Legion and the Bisons resulted from the VFW requesting the organizations to remove themselves from the liquor license they all share as co-licensees. According to VFW Commander Norman Mauldin, the directive came from the top.
“In early June, I was directed by the Michigan VFW in Lansing to remove the two organizations because in Michigan, a liquor license is considered property and, according to our by-laws, we can’t co-own property,” he said.
The organizations have shared the liquor license since the mid-1990s. The oversight was discovered by both the national and Michigan VFWs after the agencies agreed to draft canteen rules of operation.
“Once they were submitted to the national VFW, the state found out and handed down the directive,” Mauldin said.
The VFW’s request rankled both the Bisons and the American Legion members, who reeled against removing themselves from the liquor license.
“We have asked him (Mauldin) to discuss the issue but he has refused,” said Gregory Peterson, a member of the Bisons. “The alcohol is not the issue. We want to keep our name on the liquor license to remain on equal footing.”
Peterson attributes much of the fracas to Mauldin, who he said has ushered in “sweeping changes that have a negative affect on all of the organizations” ever since Mauldin took over the commander role a few years ago.
“I went to the extent of working with the Liquor Control Commission (LLC) over the summer so both of them could still use the facilities and to be sure nothing would be impacted, but when they refused to take off their names and sent a letter to the LCC, the Michigan VFW took that as a slap in the face and directed me to deliver a 30-day eviction notice,” Mauldin said. “It’s out of my hands.”
The VFW bristled at the organizations’ refusal to take their names off the liquor license, ultimately resulting in the eviction of the two organizations.
Mauldin closed the canteen as of Monday, Sept. 26. It will remain closed until the liquor license issue is resolved.
According to Andy Deloney, chairman of the LCC, it’s legal to have co-licensees on a liquor license.
“They certainly can have more than one name on a liquor license, especially if its structured as a limited liability corporation, but it only allows activity on that part of the premises,” he said.
To remove a party from the license, an application must be submitted to the LCC.
“There’s a process that must be gone through,” Deloney explained. “The issue becomes who controls the property, but every application is considered individually. The timing depends on the complexity of the issue. Litigation would of course change the complexity.”
In the interim, the city of Wixom has allowed the American Legion to hold its meetings at City Hall.
“I see the roles of the VFW, American Legion and the Bisons are to support the veterans, period,” Peterson said. “Why throw out two entities who have given the VFW a lot of money? This affects a lot of people.”
Mauldin said he doesn’t see the issue escalating further nor irreparably severing their relationships.
“Are there going to be memorandums of understanding between all of us? Yes, but I don’t see the situation severing our relationships permanently,” Mauldin said.
The VFW may not be selling alcohol currently, but they continue to provide veteran services.
“We’re still holding benefits like the Christmas and Halloween events and other veteran events — we’re just not selling alcohol in the bar,” Mauldin said.