In rechristening the Pendleton Elks Lodge as just “The Lodge,” the new owners of the 14 S.E. 3rd St. building are removing many of the references to the former tenants.

The changing of the guard might be epitomized at the facility’s second-floor auditorium, where the removal of a mounted elk head has left a small hole in the wall.

The Lodge owners are focused on making the auditorium one of the first parts of the facility to reopen in the spring.

The Lodge recently took to social media to announce that Portland band The Get Ahead would be performing at the “Grand Opening Party” on April 5.

A concert isn’t the only move The Lodge has made toward opening: the facility recently obtained business and liquor licenses.

It’s a relatively quick turnaround for a building that was acquired in late 2018 after nearly two years of disuse.

Portland electrician Lance Leonnig announced that he had purchased the building in January and has since brought in Brian Baird and Adam Mack as partners.

Both of the new partners have connections to the local music scene.

Baird and Mack both play in the Pendleton band James Dean Kindle and the Eastern Oregon Playboys, while Mack also organizes and promotes local concerts like the Wednesdays in the Park concert series.

On a Feb. 6 tour of the building, Mack seemed particularly excited by the auditorium’s potential.

Mack pointed to the room’s wavy ceiling and the raised tiles on the walls as features that should create a unique acoustic experience. Additionally, the auditorium’s long, hardwood floor should provide concert goers plenty of room to dance

“We need more dancing (in Pendleton),” Mack said. “People need to dance more.”

The owners hope to make concerts in the auditorium a monthly feature of the lodge, dubbing the series Live from the Leslie.

The auditorium isn’t the only part of the building The Lodge partners plan to fix up. Immediately outside the auditorium is a second-floor foyer where the owners tore out a drop ceiling and a wall that was blocking an array of window panels.

The sun streaming into the foyer made it much warmer than the frigid temperatures outside, and Baird said they would have to install a giant curtain to keep the room from getting hot in the summer.

While the second floor will be one the few spaces that will be open to the public April 5, there’s much more to The Lodge’s footprint.

The facility spans more than 24,000 square feet and features five bars, a cafeteria-style kitchen, a massive dining room, a patio, and a basement floor.

Baird called the facility a “big, rambling experience” similar to the McMenamins chain of breweries and venues in the Portland area.

The sheer size of the property is evocative of a time when the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge No. 288 was the one of the hottest spots in town.

The owners are also looking to restore The Stag Bar, a ground-floor space that includes a bar, a pool table, and a stage.

Mack has looked through old photos of the Elks Lodge at its height and thinks The Stag Bar could also serve as another venue in the building.

“Every other page was a band performing down there,” he said.

Eventually, the partners would like to turn The Stag Bar into a spot with regular hours, although it may undergo a name change.

At this point, renovating The Lodge is a nights and weekends task for the partners because of their day jobs. Mack is an office manager at the RBH Group and Baird is an installer for Wtechlink while Leonnig splits his time between Pendleton and his business in Portland.

Leonnig, Baird and Mack are looking for more partners, but that doesn’t mean they’ll immediately restore every part of the building.

Mack said the owners will likely leave the dining area alone for now because of their lack of restaurant management experience.

But the owners still have plans to make themselves known for Round-Up.

While the property has mostly served as a parking space for recreational vehicles during rodeo week, Mack said the owners are interested in renting out space at The Lodge to Portland bars so they can set up shop in Pendleton for the town’s busiest week for drinking.

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