Published October 22. 2008 4:00AM Updated September 11. 2009 10:41AM
Nearly every seat at the angular bar at VFW Post 10004 is taken.
"It's the bartender's birthday," says Ray Elliott, the immediate past commander of the Griswold post.
Behind the bar, birthday girl Lani Drager snaps off bottle caps, scoops ice into glasses and tosses colored chips patrons use to pay for their drinks - $1.50 for domestic bottle beer and $2.25 for well drinks and drafts - into waiting plastic cups.
Drager's birthday brought in more customers than usually would be found at the bar on a given afternoon.
But Elliott, who retired after 35 years working in the maintenance department of the Mansfield public schools, said he doesn't think the economy is playing a role in the post's recent dip in attendance.
"It's hard times. Some posts are cutting back on the hours, you know. I don't think it's the economy though," Elliott said. "It's the participation. People aren't participating like they did, say, 10 years ago."
Membership is down from last year's 550 to 390 now.
With steak nights, all-you-can eat breakfasts and hall rentals, Post 10004 is holding its own. There have been some tough months, though, when there's worry about paying the handful of employees.
Bartender Cindy Currier says she's taking home less in tips.
"We see it in our tabs because they don't have extra money to, you know … (they) would usually leave you $2 and now it will be $1 or they don't leave you anything … It's terrible," Currier says.
"There are a lot of casino people at night and they're big spenders and tippers because they're in the tip industry," Currier says, but now, fearful of layoffs, they're tipping less, too.