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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Vietnam Vets Seeking Tenants

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Hoosac Valley Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 54 President Fred Perras and Treasurer Peter Belouin
North Adams – If successful, a Hoosac Valley Vietnam Veteran’s of America Chapter 54 plan to rent space at the 30 River St. club-owned building to area civic, youth, and community groups could bring about a win/win situation.

HVVVA Chapter 54 President Fred Perras and Treasurer Peter Belouin said during a Sept. 14 interview that the club has agreed to provide meeting space to the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition-sponsored United Interdependent Trusted Youth [UNITY] group, and the membership is hoping that other groups will be interested in renting space for specific time blocks.

Those hosting special events may also want to consider holding their functions at the club, Perras said.

“We just had a candle party here the other night,” he said.

Bar Operations Halted

The club did not renew its’ all-alcoholic beverages license in January and stopped operations at the club bar. Several factors led to the decision to halt beer and liquor sales, Belouin and Perras said.

Chapter 54 membership is at about 70 Vietnam veterans, Perras said. Under the terms of a club all-alcoholic beverage sales license, only club members and their guests are allowed to patronize the club bar; issues sometimes arose when members of the general public failed to respect the law.

The situations increased when a city smoking ban eliminated smoking at city nightspots because as a private club, the HVVVA site wasn’t included in the ban.

“This organization operated as members and guests only,” Perras said. “There were times when people who were not members wanted to be here anyway, especially after the other bars had to stop the smoking. A lot of people did want to come here because they could smoke.”

The cost of bar operations, including the expense of liability insurance, were also a factor in the decision to cease liquor sales, Belouin and Perras said.

“Most of our bartenders had other jobs, and trying to work here plus go to a regular job was tough,” Perras said. “We were burning out on bartenders.”

Utility Costs on the Increase

Paying for utilities such as heat and electricity is becoming a greater challenge as those costs escalate. Perras said the club is hoping to generate enough rental revenue to pay for the utility costs. The costs had been at about $600 per month; Belouin said the club is expecting a significant increase in utility expenses.


One of eight memorial plaques erected at the HVVVA memorial courtyard
“We want to maintain our library, our park, and provide a place for Vietnam veterans to meet,” Belouin said. “We want to continue with youth event and sports sponsorships. We want to get our [high school] scholarships going again.”

The Memorial Courtyard

The club purchased the building in 1989 after renting the premises for several years. Among the many renovations was construction of a courtyard that is filled with flowers, trees, benches, and eight bronze plaques honoring Northern Berkshire troops killed in Vietnam. Those who came to a tag sale held by the club earlier this month seemed very impressed with the courtyard, Perras said.

“People were saying that they’ve driven by the fence hundreds of times and never knew what was behind it,” he said. “They were really impressed by all the plaques and the work, the detail, that went into building this park. We did have a Vietnam veteran from Alabama come by one time and he said he couldn’t believe this park. He said he couldn’t wait to get back to his chapter in Alabama and tell them about it.”

The building and the courtyard are important to the membership and an extensive library dedicated to the Vietnam war is often used by educational entities such as the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. The club has been providing the building to the Northern Berkshire Neighbors UNO neighborhood association for the association’s holiday party for many years.

A view of the HVVVA Chapter 54 courtyard


Amenities

The building is equipped with a kitchen, a dishwasher, and men's and women's bathrooms. The golden-hued handmade knotty pine L-shaped bar is not being dismantled and can be used as a display or food-serving table. Numerous windows offer natural light with a southern exposure. Interior meeting space measures about 40 feet by 40 feet, Belouin said. Anyone wishing to decorate the space may do so as long as they are willing to remove the decorations following an event, Perras said.

The courtyard may also be available for small functions; the UNITY group is expected to use an on-site barbecue and may also use a fireplace to “sit and toast some marshmallows,” Perras said.

HVVVA Chapter 54 Benefit Tag Sale

The club is hosting a large tag sale on from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sept. 24 and Sept. 25, Perras said. Anyone wishing to donate an item to the sale to benefit the club may call Perras at 413-664-6330.
“We will do item pickup,” said Belouin.


American flags are erected close to each memorial plaque.
Anyone interested in renting space may also contact Perras by telephone.

Items such as small appliances, tools, housewares, and clothing in good condition are being sought. Large items such as couches or mattresses cannot be accepted, Belouin and Perras said.

Perras and Belouin said that they are hoping to generate a number of regular tenants so that the rental fees can remian nominal.

“We thought that we could provide something to our local groups and the fees would help us keep going,” Perras said. “We’re hoping to be able to help the groups out and keep ourselves going at the same time.”

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush123@adelphia.net or at 802-823-9367.
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