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Moose Lodge tries to hit brakes on IRS auction

People gathered at the Two Harbors Moose Lodge this week for a spaghetti dinner to raise money in an effort to stop an IRS auction of the building due to unpaid payroll taxes. (Photo courtesy of Sue Bott)1 / 2
Luke Heikkila of the Two Harbors-based band Press Camp performs during a spaghetti dinner fundraiser at the Two Harbors Moose Lodge. (Photo courtesy of Sue Bott)2 / 2

The Two Harbors Moose Lodge is slated for auction Thursday, Oct. 11, as a result of unpaid payroll taxes. The club's money problems date back to the 2008 financial crisis.

Club members were galvanized by the potential loss of the building. In the last two weeks, they've raised approximately $25,000 in an attempt to stop the IRS auction over a $75,000 debt due to unpaid payroll taxes from 2007-11.

During the summer, the IRS informed the club of its decision to sell. Sue Bott and other members of the Woman of the Moose auxiliary sprung into action, sending out a mailer and organizing a spaghetti dinner Wednesday, Oct. 3, in a last-ditch effort to stop the sale.

"Hitting the brakes on the IRS is not like hitting the brakes on a car," Bott said. "It's like hitting the brakes on a freight train."

Lodge member John Goedel said that while there were problems with the club's administration during the time when the payroll taxes when unpaid, the 2008 financial crisis was also part of the club's financial woes.

"Things have really changed since 2008 and people just really haven't re-engaged since then," Goedel said. "The VFW closed. People aren't going out like they used to. It all kind of started there at the time when the tide started changing."

Goedel said he first started going to the Moose Lodge as a child with his grandfather, when the club was located where Do North Pizza is now on Waterfront Drive. He would have peanuts and a pop, while his grandfather had a beer with friends. Many major events in the history of his family have occurred at the lodge, including both his parents' retirement parties and even his father's funeral reception.

He also likes that the Moose Lodge is a place for local residents to connect in an increasingly tourist-focused town.

"This is an emotional thing for me; it's a place for us," he said. "In a tourist town, there aren't a lot of places you can go and see folks that are your age. I'm 52. When I walk into some places, I feel like I should ask to get my senior citizen discount. It's kind of like 'Cheers.' We all know each other, and we are all part of the same club."

Changes in store

Even after the 2007-11 time period, administrative problems continued to plague the Two Harbors Moose Lodge.

Just last week, the Two Harbors City Council was forced to call a special meeting to prevent the club's liquor license from lapsing. It had been on the council's action list the past two meetings, but the correct paperwork was not filed before the previous meetings by the club administrator.

Bott said the club administrator, Jay Osbakken — not the same administrator as the one who managed the lodge a decade ago — left his position early last week due to health reasons. For the next few months, a committee of members, including Bott, will oversee administration of the club if the IRS auction is averted.

"Since the change in administration, younger and newer members have stepped up to help make the lodge better," Bott said. "The feedback I've been getting is people are excited about a committee of checks and balances."

The committee plans to have a "formal hiring process" for the next administrator, according to Bott. However, Moose International requires the club administrator be a man and has final approval over the decision. However, the committee also plans to hire a bar manager and an office manager to assist the new administrator and those positions can be filled by men or women and do not require approval of the international organization.

However, the committee's focus remains on fundraising to stop Thursday's auction. The club has pledged to return any gifts over $500 if they don't make the $75,000 goal, but Bott believes if the community comes together, it is within reach.

"If 55 people step up and donate $1,000; if 110 people donate $500 — all returnable — we're there," Bott said.

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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