Published: 06:00, 12 September 2021
A 100-year-old social club that was threatened with closure as its debts soared has been saved – with campaigners revealing plans to revamp its rundown base.
It was feared over the summer that the Ex-Servicemen’s Club in William Street, Herne Bay, would lock its doors for good, after bosses revealed a “huge and rapid decline” in income in recent years.
The crisis – made worse by the pandemic – at the historic venue pushed its committee into believing that it had to shut to preserve its “good name” and pay off its creditors.
But the leaders were replaced at a meeting last month by an 18-strong team that believes it will save the site.
Announcing its relaunch, new chairman Chris Coshall told KentOnline: “It'll probably open in November. It was very close to shutting down.
“Apparently, it’s the oldest club of its kind, so we want to get it up and running for its centenary year.
“I think we’ve got enough money to get it open, but not enough yet to get all the work that needs doing done.”
The previous committee, which was led by then president Barry Church, told members in July that the club, which has not served a pint since last March, had seen a drop in custom before Covid.
It also said a raft of maintenance issues need to be rectified immediately, including rewiring the electrics, revamping the bar and giving the upstairs toilets a hot water supply.
Meanwhile, there are “major concerns regarding the safety of the cellar”, which is in need of significant repairs as draught beer cannot be pulled into glasses from barrels.
But Ms Coshall, who manages a retirement complex in King’s Road, is hoping to start a fundraising drive to generate about £100,000 to renovate the premises.
“We’ll have raffles, JustGiving pages – all sorts of things,” she added.
“We’re in short supply for money and with what we’ve got we’re trying to call upon some local tradesmen to help us with the bits that are in dire need of repairing.
“The roof needs fixing, plumbing and electrical work has to be done, the chillers have gone, the tills need upgrading - it needs updating all the way round.
“We need to encourage people to come. The inside is very old-fashioned and it looks shabby from the outside - we need to make it look nice.”
The Ex-Servicemen’s Club was originally formed in 1921 to provide veterans with a place to congregate.
It is understood to have first been based in King’s Road, before moving to its current site in William Street, which was formerly a bakery.
“We’re in short supply for money and with what we’ve got we’re trying to call upon some local tradesmen to help us..."
Committee member and former soldier Malcolm Davis, 66, added: “It’s a big relief to be reopening.
“It provides company and if any ex-servicemen suffer with any mental problems or anything like that, we talk or pass them on to Help 4 Heroes to get help.
“It’s a lifeline for a lot of people.”
Membership is open to all comers. It will cost £25 a year to join the club, with over-80s being charged a reduced rate of £20.
Meanwhile, guests will have to pay £3 a visit.
Ms Coshall is expecting about 300 people to sign up by November.
For more information on how to join the club, email firstname.lastname@example.org