Fish fries at the American Legion in Kingston have been a tradition since 1947, but that tradition almost came to an end.
Jerry Sherwood was shocked to get a letter from the Ross County Health District ordering the fish fry planned for last weekend to shut down. It said the group didn't have the proper license and wouldn't be allowed to serve food to the public.
"We go from fish fry to fish fry trying to pay the different bills and stuff," he said. "We have a fish fry to keep the Legion open."
There are only about 43 members at the Post, and Sherwood says the group has slowly been shrinking.
After calling the volunteers ready to help at the fish fry to break the news, he posted a message on the marquee in front of the building announcing there would be no fish fry this month.
Sherwood decided to make some phone calls and do some research of his own after the story hit Facebook and started quickly drumming up support for the veterans group. He found that there's an exemption for veterans groups, so long as they hold fewer than 52 events a year and don't sell food for seven days in a row.
It turns out a Ross County Health sanitarian saw the marquee with the fish fry date and looked to see if the group had a license. When he found they didn't, he sent out the letter.
"In this case, there's a clear exemption that is out there, and we made a mistake," said Ben Avery, Environmental Health Director of the Ross County Health District.
A temporary license would be needed if alcohol was being sold or if the event was being held off the American Legion's property.
Avery said they're going to make changes to ensure this kind of thing doesn't happen again. One of those changes will be more eyes on letters before they are mailed out.
"I think in the future whenever we encounter a situation like this there's going to be more oversight," he said.
Avery also said the whole thing could have been prevented with a phone call or face-to-face conversation.
"Sometimes a letter in the mail it just doesn't get the job done like a face-to-face conversation would."
Sherwood didn't have an exact dollar amount, but he said missing the fish fry means revenue the American Legion Post won't have. While the fish remains frozen, things like baked beans, bread, and potato salad weren't able to be saved. A few donations have helped bridge the financial gap.
"It's not crippling, but it is a hump in the wrong direction. It's not a positive hump; it's a negative hump," he said with a chuckle.
Avery called Sherwood and apologized, an apology Sherwood accepted. He said he's too busy to be upset.
"Now I have to get ready for the next fish fry."