The little club that could

Prepared for a fight: Ray Burns, Bob Carroll, Barry Ryan, Anke Hoeppner, Frank Edgar and Alice Edgar. Picture: Chris Lane

Prepared for a fight: Ray Burns, Bob Carroll, Barry Ryan, Anke Hoeppner, Frank Edgar and Alice Edgar. Picture: Chris Lane

A group of Arncliffe residents fiercely opposed to their local closing have achieved the unthinkable; reopening under a new name.

In recent years Arncliffe RSL has had a rocky path — almost closing its doors in 2012 before it was amalgamated with Bexley RSL Club.

In July 2015 Bexley RSL confirmed the club would close with financial pressures to blame but at the last minute it was given a six month reprieve.

However, it closed for good in March last year.

The building was left a shell with anything worth of value taken.

But that wasn’t enough to deter a group of Arncliffe residents who weren’t willing to say goodbye to the club where they had made friendships, mourned loved ones and shared a laugh.

Most had full time jobs already and had no idea where to start.

Opera singer Barry Ryan was one of the many regulars who wasn’t ready to let it go.

‘’The sense of loss was there from the get go,’’ he said.

‘’When it was announced it was very quiet in here. This place was full of memories for everybody.’’

‘’We were all asking where are we going to go?

‘’I didn’t want to go anywhere else.’’

He contacted a friend who pointed him in the direction of a legal firm.

They raised money to pay for the legal bills and used their own skills to paint the inside and fix the electricity.

They have registered a new club under the name Club Arncliffe and have a five-year lease on the building with the option for another five years.

They already have 250 members.

They are not officially opened to the public while they wait for a liquor licence, however will again host the annual Anzac Day dawn service.

Peter Hills acts as the clubs secretary and treasurer all while managing his own business.

‘’This core group has managed to turn a profit through raffles and little things,’’ he said.

‘’Without poker machines, without vending machines, without the TAB.

‘’We’ve managed to reduce our net outgoing by almost 80 per cent just simply by managing it.’’

He said the new club will be for the community by the community.

That will include opening it up to the multicultural groups looking for spaces to meet.

‘’It’s about community; it’s about being an integral part of community,’’ he said.

‘’It’s not a boozy boys club, far from it,’’ he said.

Anke Hoeppner said saving the link to the community was the group's main motivation.

‘’It’s a social hub,’’ she said.

‘’Arncliffe is such a multicultural suburb but we all came together here.

‘’As someone new into the district I saw the connections to people who had went to school here, grew up here so everybody knew everyone.

‘’The social relationships are important and we’re losing that.’’

Mr Ryan said the feeling of the club was like a old country pub.

‘’It’s a different place which is why we fought so hard,’’ he said.

Over the coming months they will be looking for operators of the Thai restaurant and putting in the finishing touches.

Mr Hills said they will reopen to the public as soon as they have the liquor licence.

The Anzac Day dawn service will be held at the club from 6am and include a catafalque party. 

It will be followed by a breakfast and traditional two-up in the afternoon.

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