Members pay up to save Suburban Club

BILL MOORE
Last updated 12:59 01/08/2014
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MARTIN DE RUYTER/FAIRFAX NZ
CRISIS TALKS: Hundreds of people attend a members’ meeting at the Nelson Suburban Club to discuss the club’s future.

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Members packed the debt-stressed Nelson Suburban Club last night and voted to secure its future by trebling their own fees for the next five years.

If the decision is formalised at a second special meeting in a month, they will be levied an additional $100 a year, on top of the existing $45 membership fee.

More than 400 people crammed into the Tahunanui Drive club's main bar, double the usual attendance for the club's major meetings.

They were there to discuss three options: the $100 levy, a compulsory door charge for every visit, or sale and potential relocation.

The possibility of leasing it back from a new owner has been strongly rumoured.

But the meeting quickly veered towards the first option and that was the one voted on as the way forward for the executive team to develop. They will look at the ramifications before seeking ratification at the follow-up meeting.

The club, which undertook an ambitious expansion in 2005, is saddled with a $2.7 million debt that it has struggled to reduce. Its poker machine and bar takings have fallen 20 per cent over three years. It was also hit with an unexpected $300,000 debt to Inland Revenue and creditors last year and sought help from members to settle that, with one putting up $128,000.

General manager Rob Finlayson said that the meeting was "unanimous by everybody but about three" that members want to keep the club, "the main thing to establish".

They were given the message that "if you want it, you have to support it".

"That's more than just raising the fees to include a mortgage levy, it's regular support, it's come and use the facility. That $100 won't be enough unless you support it," members were told.

An increase in trading revenue was needed, Finlayson said.

"Management and members all have to get together and be supportive of one another to carry it forward."

The levy would be purely applied to debt reduction, he said.

"We get good numbers through the door. Our problem is mortgage debt."

Today is the first day of the club's financial year. Everybody who renewed their membership or joined would face the $100 levy once it was ratified, said Finlayson.

"The members want to keep their club. I think everybody left knowing very clearly that they have to put their hands in their pockets to help make that happen."

He said the club's management would work on attracting more functions and greater use, and getting the message out that it's available for all Nelson people. "We have a restaurant where people think you have to be a member to come and use it, and you don't. If people want to book to use it, they're more than welcome to."

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Club member and Nelson Grey Power president Neville Male said the meeting had begun in a subdued way but had gone "pretty well" and had a positive outcome.

There was "overwhelming" backing for the $100 levy, he said, leaving questions around GST and how membership of those who didn't pay up would be managed.

"The whole view was that it's such a valuable facility, nobody wants to see it close its doors."

Members he spoke to afterwards said they wanted to support the club, but would also want to make sure that after the first 12 months there was some measurement of progress on debt reduction.

"I think we all left the meeting thinking ‘Well, we'll have to dig into our pockets to keep it going'.

"If they can show that they've made a really significant impact on the debt with the use of that first 12 months of the $100, I think that will gain greater support."

The meeting was chaired by club president Jim Reeves, with board chairman Ross Strawbridge covering the financial position.

  • Tomorrow: Bill Moore backgrounds the Suburban Club's troubles.

- Nelson

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