On a quiet Tuesday night, in a corner of the Bay Village library set aside for teenage readers, eight residents ages 50 and older sit around two tables doing what they love: playing bridge. Surrounded by books on teenage dilemmas, dramas and love, near a sign advertising a flip cup challenge the next day, the cards get dealt and the game begins.
It’s clear they’re a little out of their element. However, since Bay Village’s Tuesday Night Bridge Club was told it could no longer meet at the Dwyer Senior Center on Bryson Lane, they’ve had to get used to it.
For most of its 25 years, the six to 20 players have met weekly at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays in the center. However, on Aug. 12, the club was notified it could no longer play there due to safety and security concerns the city had brought up a year ago.
Officially, the Dwyer center closes at 4:30 p.m, so the club would send a member to the police station to retrieve a building key. However, after a citywide review of building safety, Law Director Mark Barbour and Mayor Paul Koomar decided in 2018 that letting a group into a closed building was a safety concern.
“Unfortunately, in today’s environment it’s necessary to review our policies to make adjustments from time to time,” Koomar said. “You would be hard-pressed to find another public institution that would allow unsupervised use of their facilities by the general public.”
Liability issues were another concern. During a Sept. 3 committee meeting, Councilwoman Nancy Stainbrook asked what would happen if a member slipped and fell in the parking lot. She noted the city could be sued.
A year after the issue was first raised and the bridge players moved, there is still no solution. The bridge players are adamant about playing in the evenings at the senior center.
“We’ve been a very trusted group and we’ve been there for a long time,” 10-year-member John Suter said at a recent game night. “We’re a senior group and we feel like we have been disenfranchised from being seniors at a senior center. It’s as simple as that.”
In the past year, after being notified access was denied to the center, the group relocated first to the Fuller House at BAYarts on Lake Road and later to the library’s teen center.
Early in the discussions, bridge player Linda Harris asked the city to provide evening programs at Dwyer. After several months, Harris and the group were notified that nothing could be done due to lack of interest.
Other proposed solutions included sanctioning the group, implementing fees and offering an instructor. However, for a club to become a program offered by the city, attendance must be a minimum of 10 members consistently, Koomar said.
“We understand that the bridge group has a longstanding group of players — that didn’t go unnoticed by the city administration and City Council,” Koomar said. “If there’s enough support to run an activity, we will support it.”
The group is meeting at the library at the city’s suggestion. The hope is that the group can meet at the new library when it opens.
“[The mayor] wants us to play at the library, which would be in the general area where people are reading, researching and using computers, while Dwyer, an underutilized facility as it is, sits empty,” Harris wrote on Facebook. “It’s a senior center and we feel it should be there for seniors.”
After an appeal to council on Sept. 3, some council members are hoping for a compromise.
“I think both sides just need to come to the table and see what they can do,” Councilwoman Lydia DeGeorge said. “The club is set on being at the Dwyer Center.”
The club will continue to play at the Cahoon Road library until an agreement is reached.
“We may be seniors, but we don’t give up and we do vote,” Suter said. “Seniors vote. I’ll leave it at that.”
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