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Shrinking membership forces veterans' club closure

End of the road for veterans' club as membership drops
End of the road for veterans' club as membership drops

Chatham's Veterans’ Club is to close after a dramatic drop in membership.

The club, which has been at Globe Lane, Riverside, Chatham since the early 1960s, has suffered from dwindling membership for the last 10 years.

Members can play snooker and meet for a chat and a cup of tea six days a week.

Club secretary Ken Baker, 76, has been a member for 15 years but said he expected to close the doors of the club for the last time at the end of February.

He said: “We need £5,000 a year and we bring in half that. Rates go up but we don’t raise our prices for playing snooker.

“A few years ago we raised our prices by about 10p a frame and we lost 10 members.”

Mr Baker said he blamed a number of issues for the club’s downfall and that they had hoped for backing from Medway Council.

He said: “We were hoping because we are in the regeneration area we would be taken over by the council and we felt if we could hang on long enough, they would find us somewhere to go.”

According to Mr Baker, vandalism had become worse since “about 1994/95 and after 2000 it increased a lot’, with approximately two incidents of vandalism every year since then.

He said: “The amount of vandalism has not helped, people were not exactly afraid to come down but the feeling was there, it is a very vulnerable place and, with the cost of things nowadays, any vandalism costs £500 excess, it was not always worth us claiming the insurance.”

Mr Baker said the club had more than 100 members in 2000, but now there were less than 40.

He said: “It is sad, it as somewhere to go and the people who do use it will miss it but it is time to call it a day.”

It is hoped many of the members will join Rochester Veterans’ Club.

A council spokesman said: “The council met with Ken Baker to discuss options for the club.

“We understand that there have been discussions between the Rochester and Chatham clubs and that the Rochester club is going to extend its hours of opening so hopefully members of the Chatham club will be able to play at Rochester in future.”

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