Evin Planto, Post 291 Commander
May 8th, 2023
Your Post has survived the pandemic and it is ready to serve you. We have made quite a few changes. There are some new events that you will find in the This Week at the Post email. There are specials in the bar including drinks and wine and the kitchen keeps coming up with new menu items. Come on by for a meal or a drink and look at the changes we have made.
The Post has needed upgrades but I knew it when it was pointed out to me that Tracey’s and my desk was a door on its side held up by three filing cabinets. We remodeled the office with new furniture, flooring, and paint. What a difference it made.
The Post Great Hall has been upgraded with air conditioning (and heating) that allows us to rent to our members and the community during the hot summer months. The new ceiling with exposed beams gives the legion hall a more modern and far more attractive appearance.
Lastly, our kitchen has been upgraded with new equipment and we now have improved our cooking capacity by more than 30%. Equally important, the new hood and fire suppression equipment have been installed and this kitchen will not burn the building down. We added 18 hours a week to the kitchen schedule so we now serve from our menu seven days a week to 7 or 8pm.
These projects were all completed in January and February by our team with me as the project manager. There was some resistance from the E-Board over various decisions that had to be made quickly but we worked with our contractors to complete the project successfully.
The post had a record year in 2022 with over $4,100,000 in revenue and a small profit. Our future looks bright! Fortunately, previous Commanders managed to put aside some funds for the future. Without their efforts, the current projects would not have been possible. We need to thank Doug Nye and Jon Reynolds.
The City’s seawall project started out with a bang. Phase one went as smoothly as could be expected with little to no impact on our business. Phase two has not been smooth at all. Phase two work was to begin on January 9th. So, we moved boats to Marina Park in preparation for the work to begin. By early April the work had not started. The work started in May but the contractor has run into several problems, but we expect work to be completed by the end of May.
In my effort to improve the membership experience, I was finally successful in getting the Executive Committee to support the membership desires for a remodeled hall, air conditioning and heat for the entire building, and increasing our kitchen capacity with new equipment to meet our expected business growth in 2023. Accomplishing all these projects in the month of January was quite an endeavor. The final city inspections were passed in the first week of February and the HVAC became operational in February. The Hall is usable, but we are still working on acoustics and a new audio-visual system. The Executive Board passed a motion to act on the bids we have received and acoustics and AV system work will be starting in May. If you have not been to the post this year you should come down and see the improvements. I know you will be pleasantly surprised.
We held the Superbowl Party hosted by the Crisp Family Foundation in the remodeled Hall with 250 marines from Camp Pendleton (check out the video on our website.) We also held our Grand Reopening on February 18th with a full house and the Vietnam Welcome Home party March 25 was a great success. Please check out our website to keep up with all the events at the post.
This year my focus will be to work with the City to address ADA issues, the renewal of our lease in 2027 and projects for new upgraded bathrooms and kitchen expansion. In addition, we plan on replacing the Marina bathroom facilities.
Lastly, I cannot forget our preparation for the Post’s Centennial in 2024 celebrating 100 years in Newport Beach. As I learn more from the city and our plans for the Centennial Celebration, I will get the updates out to the membership.
Vietnam War Veterans Day
In 2012, President Barack Obama signed a presidential proclamation, designating March 29 as the annual observance of Vietnam War Veterans Day.
The signing of the proclamation marked the 50th anniversary of the departure of the last American troops from Vietnam — March 29, 1973. Only U.S. embassy personnel and support staff remained in South Vietnam until the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975.
From The American Presidency Project, Proclamation 8829:
“As we observe the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, we reflect with solemn reverence upon the valor of a generation that served with honor. We pay tribute to the more than 3 million servicemen and women who left their families to serve bravely, a world away from everything they knew and everyone they loved. From Ia Drang to Khe Sanh, from Hue to Saigon and countless villages in between, they pushed through jungles and rice paddies, heat and monsoon, fighting heroically to protect the ideals we hold dear as Americans. Through more than a decade of combat, over air, land, and sea, these proud Americans upheld the highest traditions of our Armed Forces.
“As a grateful Nation, we honor more than 58,000 patriots—their names etched in black granite—who sacrificed all they had and all they would ever know. We draw inspiration from the heroes who suffered unspeakably as prisoners of war, yet who returned home with their heads held high. We pledge to keep faith with those who were wounded and still carry the scars of war, seen and unseen. With more than 1,600 of our service members still among the missing, we pledge as a Nation to do everything in our power to bring these patriots home.”
“The Vietnam War is a story of service members of different backgrounds, colors and creeds who came together to complete a daunting mission,” the proclamation states. “It is a story of Americans from every corner of our nation who left the warmth of family to serve the country they loved. It is a story of patriots who braved the line of fire, who cast themselves into harm’s way to save a friend, who fought hour after hour, day after day to preserve the liberties we hold dear.”
More than 58,000 Americans were killed and many thousands more were wounded and injured or determined to be missing.
Although U.S. military advisors had been in South Vietnam since 1955, the proclamation states that Jan. 12, 1962, was the starting point of the war. This is the date when America’s first combat mission, Operation Chopper, was launched.
On that day, U.S. Army pilots airlifted more than 1,000 South Vietnamese soldiers to an area about 12 miles west of Saigon to capture a National Liberation Front stronghold. The NLF, also known as the Viet Cong, were communist fighters who were in South Vietnam.
On March 28, 2017, President Donald J. Trump signed into law the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017, which named March 29 National Vietnam War Veterans Day. The bill amended the U.S. flag code to include National Vietnam War Veterans Day as a day on which the flag should be flown.
On April 9th American Legion Post 291 will have our Vietnam Veteran Welcome Home Celebration. Please come out and show your support for all our heroes who served with honor in this war and returned home and are now supporting all American Legion veterans.
March 10th, 2022
At our March monthly general membership meeting, I reviewed a letter recently received from the City of Newport Beach that threatens the future of our Post. I displayed the letter on the big screen but it was hard to read and many have asked for a copy.
This is important because it impacts every member of our American Legion Post 291 family. In two years, we will celebrate our 100th anniversary in Newport Beach. Despite that, the City has decided to re-define the terms of our lease that we have followed without challenge for twenty years. They are demanding unpaid back rent for 2016, 2017 and 2018 in the amount of $223,796 but, if allowed to stand, the Post will incur an immediate liability in excess of $500,000. This issue started with a letter to the previous Commander, Jon Reynolds, dated December 21, 2020, but was never resolved.
Our current 25 year lease terminates in five years in 2027. We have an option to extend the term for another 25 years if we are “not in default” to the City. After reading these two letters, I am sure that you will see our problem and why we have to find a solution. if you have questions, please speak with me or send me an email. Here are the two letters:
Commander Evin Planto
Happy New Year!
The past six months have been a world wind of post business, event planning, and most importantly improving the member experience. It brings me a great deal of joy hearing how our members are happy with the way the post is being run and how much they are enjoying post events and activities. From 4th of July to our New Years Eve Party we have had many successful events. The post was also selected to receive a visit in December from the American Legion National Commander, Paul Dillard. Lynette and I met him at the National Convention and he took us up on our invitation to visit the post. The post left a very memorable impression on him and I expect many visits by future National Commanders.
I know when I ran for Commander as an unknown there were many skeptical members. I want to thank those who voted for me. And for those who did not, I hope I have proven myself and gained your support. Owning my own government contracting business, being a Battalion Commander, and working on the Army Staff at the Pentagon gave me the skills needed to be Commander at this wonderful post. I have been amazed to find out the neglect the post has experienced in the past years. Upon taking command I was told that the light for the “American Legion Post 291” sign in front of our post was not working for the past three years. I am pleased to say that the light on our sign is working and a new heater has just been installed in the bar and view room. Getting AC for the post has been discussed for five years. We are now in contract to get it installed this year. The House Committee has implemented a preventative maintenance program to keep equipment at the post operational rather than waiting for them to fail. When I found out that the desk in my office was a door placed on three filing cabinets, I decided it was time to update the office. New furniture, paint, and flooring has been ordered and will be installed in February. The Executive Board has budgeted funds to remove the drop ceiling in the hall creating a great hall. I feel that this enhancement will get the post more events and allow us to increase the rental fee to recoup the cost for the ceiling removal.
I was told that it is expected for food and liquor sales to be low during the months of January thru March. I cannot accept a do-nothing attitude and am taking steps to change poor sales by improving the membership experiences during those months. That is why we now have gas heaters to keep members warm as well as blankets for sale. This is helping to keep the patio a venue where members can enjoy our beautiful setting year round. I have also continued Jazz Night through these months by placing several heaters and bistro lights on the patio. This keeps everyone warm and provide an incredible ambiance for jazz. We are monitoring the weather closely and are always prepared to move our music into the hall when required. The Post has had great success with all the steps we have taken to increase sales since I took command. For the month of January 2022, our banquet hall food and rental sales have been way down (we feel due to COVID), but our bar sales were up 27.19% and restaurant sales up 83.62% over January 2019. So for the period from July 1, 2019 to Jan 31, 2020 compared to the same period in 2021/2022, bar and restaurant sales were up 27.54%.
I am happy to notify everyone that the City of Newport Beach has decided to enter discussions with the post to possibly improve our lease. You may ask why we would want to modify a lease which has over 32 years left on it. I felt that this could be a great opportunity for the post to have this discussion with the city but the Executive Board disagrees with me. I established a Lease Committee of very knowledgeable and talented individuals who will continue to work with the Executive Committee on this opportunity. Ultimately the membership will have to approve any changes. If we have discussions and they do not succeed, it is my belief that we could continue our current lease and hope that when the lease ends the city will offer the post a new one. The Executive Committee does not share my belief.
The post is getting close to its 100th anniversary. I have ideas for post improvements to make this anniversary special. With the support of membership and the Executive Committee, the Post can start its next 100 years with a new lease and facility improvements. This will keep Post 291’s beauty and member experience what it should be and what the current and future membership deserves.
American Legion Post 291