Lismore Workers' Club Manager Steve Bortolin at the Lismore Workers' Heights Bowling Club.
Lismore Workers' Club Manager Steve Bortolin at the Lismore Workers' Heights Bowling Club. The Northern Star

Tough times hit local clubs

LISMORE Workers' Club boss Steve Bortolin said his board needs to think hard about the future of its subsidiary organisations.

Clubs throughout NSW are going through their toughest times, with the ban on indoor smoking one year ago crippling patronage.

A 52 per cent rise in poker machine tax hasn't helped and now clubs on Crown land face a 1000 per cent hike in rent.

Lismore Workers' Heights Bowling Club is one of those on Crown land and Mr Bortolin said it would be difficult to find the extra funds, considering the club lost $120,000 last financial year.

Lismore Workers' Golf Club is in the same dire straits, with many factors conspiring to turn customers away.

Responsible service of alcohol laws make it tougher for clubs to serve drinks, and smoking laws, pokie taxes, cost of petrol and the cost of living all make it hard to attract customers.

With the golf club, Mr Bortolin said high maintenance costs on greens were not being offset by more players coming to the clubhouse.

“Often people will get in their car straight after a game and go home,” he said.

Fortunately the Workers' Club owns the golf clubhouse and leases the course from Lismore City Council, rather than the Crown.

Mr Bortolin said cash flow at the Lismore Workers parent club was good.

Clubs NSW Spokesman Jeremy Bath said clubs across the state recorded their worst financial year ever, with an average fall of 11 per cent on the previous 12 months.

Again, the ban on indoor smoking was being blamed for the hit.

One-in-three clubs across NSW – or 400 venues – will be affected by the Crown land rent rise.

The year also saw the closure or amalgamation of another 25 clubs, bringing the total number of clubs lost during the past decade to 270.

There were 50 clubs seeking amalgamation. Of those merged, there was typically a 50 per cent survival rate.

Not all clubs were doing badly, and Alstonville Plateau Sports and Bowls Club had a loyal local market, according to manager Melissa Brooke.

“Our turnover is up,” she said.

Evans Head Bowling Club and the Woodburn-Evans Head RSL Club both own their own land, so were insulated from rent rises, and have a loyal following. The fact both clubs gave freely to the community had helped keep their market loyal.



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