A rendering of what the front of a rebuilt Cayucos Vets Hall would look like.
With the heart of its community closed indefinitely, Cayucos citizens are once again stepping up, as they did with the rebuilding of the iconic Cayucos Pier.
Local residents have formed the “Cayucos Vet’s Hall Committee” (see: www.restorecayucosvetshall.org) “to help restore the iconic Cayucos venue,” according to a news release by the committee.
The Vet’s Hall has been closed since 2016, after the County discovered significant structural issues with the historic landmark. Among the issues was a rotted and sagging floor under the stage and issues with the rafters and their connection to the walls, among other issues.
The building was deemed unsafe fearing the roof might blow off in a windstorm, but it’s stood firm through a couple of nasty winters and endured dozens of storms. The County has been working on getting it repaired for years.
The current estimate is $5.4 million to make the Vet’s Hall usable again. The County got a State grant for $1.8 million in 2019, which is in danger of expiring soon. County Supervisors are slated to consider footing the repair bill at their Sept. 28 meeting, according to the Committee’s release.
“The closing of the building has been a huge burden to the community,” the Committee said. “Besides being a sell-out venue for weddings, anniversaries and other special occasions, the Hall is used by Cayucos community organizations for fundraising events supporting scholarships, seniors, fireworks, the arts and economic activity in the community. It is the only venue of its kind in the Cayucos.”
The County erected a large tent behind the hall in the picnic area and that has been used for some events, including the Sea Glass Festival, though nothing much has been going on there since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in April 2020.
The Committee launched a fund-raising campaign “to demonstrate to the County Board of Supervisors that the Vet’s Hall is a valuable economic resource because it will be a self-supporting, income-generating investment for the County and the community.”
The goal is to light a fire under the County and get the hall fixed. “The community’s support is meant to emphasize to the Supervisors that the restoration and financing of this historic building is a wise fiscal decision.”
Whatever monies the Committee can raise will go to help the County with the costs, refurbishing the hall and “to emphasize that the Vet’s Hall should remain an affordable resource for the local community organizations,” the Committee said. The Cayucos Lions Club has been in charge of managing the Vet’s Hall but County Parks is expected to take over those duties.
The Committee’s goal is to raise at least $200,000 by Sept. 28 as an “emphatic message” to the Supervisors. The long-term goal is to raise $500,000. If Supervisors agree to fund the repairs, it could be back in operation in 2024.
“Large or small donations are welcome and appreciated. Donations can be made online at: www.restorecayucosvetshall.org.
If readers are feeling a bit of déjà vu at this development, that could be because a similar effort was launched to help with rebuilding the Cayucos Pier, which the County closed to foot traffic in July 2013. The pier was missing many of the wooden pilings that had busted loose by over 100 years of pounding by the surf. And most all of them were hollowed by wood worms. The deck too was in rough shape.
The condition of the pier was never more evident than during the Annual Lost at Sea Memorial, which commemorates all people lost at sea and culminates with a procession down the pier where a wreath is thrown into the sea. With some 350 walking on it, the pier would sway back and forth.
In July 2013, the decision was made by County Parks to close the pier to pedestrians and fix it. That job ended up costing about $3.4 million and Cayucos’ citizens stepped up to the plate to help.
The Friends of the Cayucos Pier was formed with a goal of raising $100,000 and ended up raising some $750,000 — $100,000 went towards the reconstruction, $150,000 to upgrade the lighting, and another $30,000 went to move the fire water line off the deck. The remaining money was to go into a maintenance fund for future upkeep.
The Pier and Vet’s Hall were part of the original shipping operation started by Capt. James Cass in 1872.
Capt. Cass’ operations were the hub of the community servicing steam ships plying the Coast and shipping farm products like butter and cheese from local dairy farms. The Vet’s Hall was a warehouse and steamships docked at the end of the pier loading goods on and off the ships in what was a prosperous business.
The Pier, Vet’s Hall, a barn, and the Cass House, the Captain’s original home, are about all that’s left of the operation.
If readers want to discuss how they can help with these efforts, email to: email@example.com.