After decades in the shadow of Saint Marys Hospital on Rochester's Second Street, Charlie's Eatery & Pub is heading north this fall.
Charlie Brannon, who has owned the popular bar and grill since 1987, says he is signing a lease to take over space in the Elks Lodge No. 1091 at 1652 U.S. 52 North in the Hillcrest Shopping Center.
The plan is for Charlie's Eatery & Pub to move into the space currently occupied by Wong's Café as well as the Elks bar and dining room area. Wong's is moving out on July 27.
The Elks will retain use of the large space the service club uses on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays for popular bingo games.
Part of the forces driving this change is the membership and financial challenges that classic service clubs, such as the Elks, are facing these days. This deal allowed the Rochester lodge to sign a new five-year lease with the owners of the Hillcrest Shopping Center, according to the Elks latest newsletter.
"This was a very tough decision as they (Wong's Café) have been a very wonderful and loyal tenant, but our Lodge would cease to exist if we didn’t make changes immediately to cover the costs of our building," wrote current Exalted Ruler Jim Holman in a letter to the lodge.
While the lodge will not control the bar as in the past, Brannon plans to offer discounts and specials for Elk members.
"I've been an Elk member for 25 years. The lodge is important to me," Brannon said. "We'll still take care of them. With the larger kitchen space, I think we'll be able to expand our menu some there."
After Wong's moves out, that will clear the way for renovation for the new Charlie's.
Brannon says he needs to be out of the Brentwood on 2nd Hotel at 1406 Second St. SW by the end of August. The hotel is slated to be demolished to make way for a proposed $100 million,13-story development. It's unclear if other commercial tenants such as City Market, A Shared Smile and the Healing Touch Spa also will be leaving then.
Bingo is proving to be a bright spot for the Elks in the midst of difficult times. The lodge has hosted charitable bingo games in its previous Rochester home, but they stopped when the Elks moved into Hillcrest in 2006. Then in 2014, the Rochester Senior Center moved its Flamingo Bingo operation into the Elks lodge.
The Senior Center closed up shop in December 2014, but the Elks launched their own bingo hall last summer. It has proven to be popular and has helped stabilize the lodge's finances.