City Orders Pride of Dover Elks Lodge Shut - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

City Orders Pride of Dover Elks Lodge Shut

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DOVER, Del. -- City officials have ordered the Pride of Dover Lodge #1125 to "cease operations" as a club after it was found to be non-compliant with zoning laws for the area it was located within and the state has suspended its liquor license, according to documents sent to leaders of the club.

In a letter obtained by WBOC, the city's planning director, Ann Marie Townshend, said to the Elks Club's exalted leader, Willie Alexander, that Dover was told undercover agents with the Delaware Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement were able to enter the lodge on Dec. 11 after paying cover without being sponsored by a member and later proceeded to purchase alcohol.

Townshend said in the letter that Alexander had assured the city in a meeting between both parties that the lodge only served members and their guests, which had been determined upon as an acceptable conditional use that brought it into compliance with local zoning restrictions ahead of a Dec. 31 deadline.

However, Townshend wrote that the documented case of nonconforming use violated the zoning law for that area, which is zoned for General Residence. 

"Given that this use of the property is now documented as nonconforming, and that the letter sent on August 24, 2016, required that the property be brought into compliance with the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance by December 31, 2016, the Lodge must cease operations immediately," she said.

Additionally, Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissioner John Cordrey informed that lodge in a separate letter that its liquor license had been suspended because of its noncompliance with city zoning laws and would remain that way until he received notification about a business license being reinstated.

Alexander declined comment on the order from the city.

"I have nothing to say," he said.

The lodge and the people who visit it have long been an issue with some neighbors who have complained about noise, litter, fights, and gun violence along Kirkwood Street that they claim occurred after the club closed for the evening.

Carmen Hardcastle, who lives along Kirkwood Street, said she would not walk outside on Friday and Saturday nights because of nuisances from outsiders who came into the community.

"I think it's good. I think it's long overdue for the Elks to close down or to find another avenue, somewhere else to go," she said.

Terri Caldwell, also a resident of Kirkwood Street, said she believed the city's actions would prevent violence and even lewd acts from occurring in people's backyards that she alleges were being conducted by people who visited the lodge. 
"[It's going to feel like] home," she said. "It's going to feel like we don't have to hide."

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