Future of club up for debate

Interest was running high in last night's special meeting to debate the future and possible sale of the debt-laden Nelson Suburban Club, with a suggestion a white knight could be in the wings waiting to buy it.

Meanwhile the Sun City Rockers rock'n'roll club has relocated to Club Waimea in Richmond and the RSA is warning that it will also pull out if its membership fees go up.

Suburban Club president Jim Reeves said the sale of the club and its large Tahunanui Drive site to an owner who would lease it back would be the ideal outcome but last night's meeting wouldn't be making any decisions.

He knew of the rumour that a buyer was waiting, but couldn't say any more. Other sources said they had heard the same story.

Reeves said he expected "a couple of hundred" members to attend.

The meeting asked members if they want to try to pay off loans of about $2.7 million through extra membership fees of $100 a year or a compulsory entrance fee, or sell the club.

Depending on what they indicated, more work would be done before a final proposal was put to another special meeting.

A valuation was the next step if a sale was preferred, Reeves said.

RSA president Barry Pont, who is a Suburban Club committee member, said the organisation would take its 612 members somewhere else in the Stoke-Tahunanui area if its fees were put up. "We've told them we won't pay any more."

Sun City Rockers president Marie Bone said the club, with about 100 members, had decided to move on after 14 years of using the Suburban Club as its home.

"It's just been going on for so long and if we leave it we'll end up with nowhere to go. I don't think they've been that open with everybody really."

Reeves said the club wouldn't be asking the RSA for more money directly, but might have no choice but to ask individual RSA members to increase their contribution. He said he hoped the meeting would have a positive result.

"The bank [ANZ] is very good. They know we're on to it and we're trying to look around and see what we're going to do. They'll support us so long as they know we're not trying to screw them."

If the worst happened and the club had to close, "there's quite a few people out of a job," he said.

When casual bar and kitchen staff were included there were more than 50 people on the payroll, he said.

The 44-year-old club, which has about 5000 members, revealed its difficulties in September last year when it wrote to members saying it had a $200,000 tax bill and owed $100,000 to other creditors, and invoiced them $100 each as a one-off donation.

Its woes are attributed to falling revenue from its 18 poker machines and bar sales, causing it to struggle to service debts created when it enlarged its buildings in 2000 and 2005, modelling itself on Australia's large regional clubs where poker machine gambling is prevalent.

The Nelson Mail