Walcha Ex-Services board says use it or lose it

OPEN FOR BUSINESS - FOR NOW: Leanne Presnell behind the bar at the Walcha Ex-Services Club
OPEN FOR BUSINESS - FOR NOW: Leanne Presnell behind the bar at the Walcha Ex-Services Club

The Walcha Ex-Services Club may be the next victim of the drought according to its board who have arranged a community meeting to discuss the venue's future.

A post on Facebook by the club last week warning of its possible closure has been seen by more than 20,000 people and received media coverage but has not resulted in additional business.

"Getting the word out is great, but now we need to convert that into increased patronage at the club," said Walcha Ex-Services Club administration officer Leanne Presnell.

"We understand that Walcha is going through some tough times and farmers and businesses alike are doing it tough, but the time has come for the club to make some hard decisions - either try and continue trading or close the doors."

A community meeting is set for this Sunday at 1 pm at the club.

"The purpose of this meeting is for the community to rally behind the club and help come up with ideas moving forward," Ms Presnell said.

"For the club to continue trading, we need the Walcha community to support it."

Ms Presnell said the club had functions booked until August, but after that the future is unknown.

"The board will discuss our financial viability at the August regular meeting and decide if we can continue to operate," she said.

"So if you are planning to hold an event in spring and wish to make a booking, please get in touch with us before then."

While special events and functions all help to keep the venue going, Ms Presnell said regular patronage is what is most needed and day to day trading will be monitored from now until the August meeting.

"We're not asking people to come in every week - that's not realistic - but if people could come in say once a month for a meal or a drink that would help," said Ms Presnell.

"I know everyone has their local watering hole but come in at 4 pm and have a beer here once a fortnight in a different environment. I know the others are doing it hard, and we don't want to take business away from them because we know they're doing it just as tough - but this is crunch time for the club. It is a community club, and if the community don't come in regularly, we're going to lose a great community club in this town."

this is crunch time for the club

Leanne Presnell

Originally opened to honour the ex-servicemen and women that fought in the war and for the Walcha community to have a social gathering place, the Walcha Ex-Services Memorial Club first opened its doors in 1946 with Mr M.A Crawford as the president.

Well known past resident Mr Frank Brazel was the secretary/manager of the club from 1964 to 1985 and is responsible for the extensions made between 1968 and 1975.

"For many years the club was the social place to be whether it was for a schooner of beer or a game of snooker or billiards," Ms Presnell said.

"Unfortunately those times have changed, and the club now finds itself in extreme financial difficulties. Like so many other small clubs, we are struggling to keep up with the never-ending and increasing costs of running a small business.

"Exorbitant costs of electricity, water and insurances are gradually overtaking our income stream. The bottom line is that it's great to have a band and great to have a big event, but we need to pick up our everyday trade."

The restaurant is open on Thursday and Friday nights, and the club will open the restaurant outside of these hours for a minimum of 15 people. On Saturday the club is open from noon, and bingo is held fortnightly with raffles held on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons. There are also two tennis courts for hire, indoor bowls, snooker, pool and darts.

"On Sunday we are looking at opening for set hours and running the bar with unpaid volunteers from the board who have their RSA," said Ms Presnell.

"Thanks to our many hard-working volunteers and dedicated staff and directors, we are just managing to keep our heads above the water, but unfortunately this work alone cannot keep us open."