The former Pendleton Elks Lodge has a new owner.
Portland electrical contractor Lance Leonnig bought the 24,000-square-foot building at 14 S.E. Third St. for $225,000 and plans to turn it into a bar and entertainment space.
Leonnig, 45, said his family has been in Pendleton since the late 1800s and his great-grandfather built churches here. The Elks building drew his interest years ago.
“Every time I come to town I looked at the building and I wanted it,” he said. “It came up for sale and I managed to get it.”
Leonnig said his business in Portland, 84 Electric, is a one-man show, but he has done electrical work and lighting in some of Portland’s newer top-end bars, including Capitol and Hey Love.
“The bars I do look like doll houses,” he said, and he aims to bring that movie set-like aesthetic to the old Elks building.
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge No. 288 has been in Pendleton since 1895. Larry Blanc, one of the trustee chairmen for the club, said the group’s first seal remains above the Security Apartments, 130 S.W. Court Ave. The organization at its height claimed more than 3,000 members and built and moved into the Third Street building in the mid-1950s.
But the Elks by 2017 had about 250 members. That March the group surrendered its charter to the national organization and put the building up for sale. Blanc said closing the deal is a bittersweet relief and sign of the times.
“That building was just much too big for us,” Blanc said. “We didn’t have the membership to support it.”
Keeping the building going ate into the Elks’ ability to do charity work, Blanc said, but the sale allows the group to refocus. He said in late spring or early summer the group will contact former members and invite the public to a barbecue to see if there are people interested in being active Elks.
“We’ll just take it from there,” he said, and if enough people show interest, they can start hunting for a smaller and more affordable location.
Leonnig said bringing life to the old building will start in the spring and take several steps, and his focus is on the upstairs hall and the old stag bar. He said he had offers in Portland to own a bar, but he held off until the Elks building came along. He also said he is confident his contacts in Portland will want in on this Pendleton action.
“I’ve seen every freaking mistake ever in the bar business ... and I’m going to steer us clear of all that in this project,” Leonning said.
The new name could be as simple as The Lodge, he said, with a heavy Pendleton theme. He encouraged anyone with decor or relics that could pop as Pendleton eye candy to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leonnig said the deal is so fresh he does not know when the old Elks lodge will open fully as the new business, and his contractor work is going to have to help finance the project. But he said this is coming at a good time with Pendleton’s food and drink scene on the rise.
“It’s going to be a hell of a place when we get done with it,” he said.