[Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect a correction in the name of the Loyal Order of the Moose organization.]
SALEM — The Salem Moose Lodge, a social club and charitable organization that has been part of the city for more than a century, is closing for good.
The organization's executive board voted Friday to discontinue the lodge, citing financial problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The club, located at 50 Grove St., shut down in March due to the pandemic and was hoping to reopen. But it can longer keep up with the costs of rent and utilities while there is no revenue coming in, said Joe Howard, the lodge's governor.
"There's just literally nothing left," Howard said. "With the lodge closed it was going to cost us a few thousand dollars a month just to stay there. The COVID-19 hit a lot of places, and unfortunately we became one of them."
The Loyal Order of the Moose started in Salem in 1910. The club moved to Grove Street in 2006 after more than 40 years on Highland Avenue and became known as the Moose Family Center.
Jackie Grimes, who has been involved with the lodge since 1996, said the Moose is much more than a place to socialize and get a drink. The Salem club hosted annual dinners for senior citizens on Thanksgiving and Easter while also delivering hundreds of meals to people at their homes.
"That's probably the saddest part for me (about the closing), the elderly people that we serve," Grimes said.
In addition to local causes, the club has supported the Mooseheart residential program for children in Illinois and the Moosehaven retirement community in Florida.
Howard said the club has about 500 members and would probably have survived if not for the four-month shutdown due to the pandemic. The lodge had a successful fundraiser just before the shutdown and had recently banned smoking, he said.
"It looked like things were on the upswing," Howard said. "Some of the members were starting to come back in once we went non-smoking and that was a tremendous asset. COVID-19 hit and it just stopped everything. The bottom line is COVID-19 is actually what did in this lodge."
Howard, a 63-year-old diesel mechanic, said the club considered taking out a small business loan to keep going, but the top board members would have been on the hook if the club couldn't make payments.
"That's something we really couldn't do," he said.
Howard said other Moose lodges are also struggling due to the pandemic. The clubs that own their buildings are faring better than those, like Salem, that lease their buildings and have to pay rent. The Salem lodge will sell off its bar and kitchen equipment to other lodges, he said.
Grimes, 68, said she first became involved with the Moose when she played bingo at the club on Highland Avenue. Women are not technically members, but the rules are scheduled to change next year to allow women as members, she said.
Grimes said the Salem lodge's women's group was scheduled to meet Monday night to decide if they should stay together or maybe join the lodge in North Reading, which is the nearest one to Salem.
Grimes said the lodge has served as an extended family for her and provided support when she lost two children.
"They were my strength to help me get through that," she said. "I know I could call them any time of day or night. It's a really, really, really sad day for me."
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.