Admin staff Kaye Hicks and Samantha Cram with Assistant Manager Megan Sawyer.

 

Cootamundra Ex-Servicemens and Citizens Memorial Club Director Kenneth Stapleton said, he has not seen the club close its doors in 71 years. And that it did on March 23 when the pandemic first shut many businesses close, as well as forcing everyone indoors. Assistant Manager Megan Sawyer said the place used to look “really tired” and that it was great it got the upgrades it deserved. “It was weird at first, not one patron came in for six months,” she said. “But we had 13 staff on Jobkeeper and with COVID happening, it gave us a great opportunity to conduct our renovations and go forward as a club. “Plans to renovate the place has always been on the cards too, for the past two years.” For Administrative Staff Samantha Cram, she was able to continue her role at the RSL Club during the past few months and is excited with the re-opening and for it to get busy again. “We didn’t see anyone, it was definitely different,” Samantha said.

“The whole club is a very interactive place, so you do miss that face-to-face interaction. Some people unfortunately passed away whilst we closed too. “But now? There’s been a lot of catching up to do with the regulars.” And there were certainly plenty of catchups happening when The Times visited the club on a Saturday afternoon, two days after its grand re-opening. The Times caught up with good friends Trevor Collins and Bruce Williams, whom have both been visiting the club for over 20 years now. Trevor and Bruce were both hanging out with a couple of other friends, having a beer and placing a few bets with the races shown on the large TV screen. Normally, the group would all just show up and gather on a Saturday afternoon, no texts or pre-communication to meet, just knowing that each one of them would be there. For Trevor, the club has always been his “watering hole”, he said the renovations looked great and it was always a pleasure to come even before the renovations. “I’ve always had the same friends for the past 20 years and we would just come down here,” he said.

“Two decades ago, it wasn’t as opened [spaced] as it is now, I am very impressed with the colour changes as well as the new televisions for [sport] viewings.” Bruce said it felt like just yesterday, that he visited the club for the first time, although a TAB machine did not exist previously. Mr Williams has a background training horses in Wagga, Canberra and Albury, and because those events are cancelled, he enjoys placing a few bets with a couple of beers, as well as good company. “I am always predicting for the best in the [bet] races, but usually come off with no luck,” Bruce joked. “This drinking hole has always been an afternoon enjoyment that I look forward to, I mean, nothing beats coming here instead of mowing the lawn on a Saturday.

“The club has done a great job, the beers always seem to get better.” New changes at the club include a revamp of the bar, as well as the gaming room expansion. New wiring, fire-rated ceilings and new cameras have been put in place too, increasing the overall safety of the premises. New lights, ceilings, carpets, tiles, bistro furniture and custom lighting at the gaming lounge, are a few things patrons can look forward to at the club. Assistant Manager Megan Sawyer said the renovations have brought the club up to a more “21st century look”. New till-watches and till systems with scanners, have also been put in place for an increase in service efficiency, and staff are up-to-date with training too. Whereas bar staff had to previously scroll and rummage through a list of drinks on screen, they can now just scan it and type in the quantity.

The final part of the renovation is the extended seating of the bistro. Currently at 25 seats, within a month’s work, it will be expanded to over 100 seating, with glass viewing for the bowls. On the outside of the glass are blinds designed to open and close during large winds or really hot summer days. At the TAB area, there are 40 high chairs, and in the pavilion it seats 35 people. The sportsman lounge seats up to 65 patrons and can be separated by a movable wall with the dance floor space, separate ongoing functions are common pre-COVID at the club.

The club is licensed to have 300 patrons on that floor at any one time. Last Sunday at the sportsman lounge, Cootamundra Strikers enjoyed their first time back at the club when they held their traditional post-game get together. Both the mens and womens team suffered a tough day out in Lake Albert with huge losses, but, they had the new look club to enjoy at the end of the day. Cootamundra Strikers Club President Wally Parkinson has been at the soccer club ever since the Ex-Servicemen club first sponsored them in 2001, he said the re-opening has been rather fitting with the season drawing to a close this month.

“Having our little get together at the club each Sunday night was so important to us, not just to socialise and debrief, but to also enjoy ourselves outside of training on Tuesday and Thursday,” he said. “For the club to re-open again, it means a lot, as they have been our major sponsor throughout all these years. Previously, the Strikers were considering having their major end-of-year presentation at their home ground, if the club was not yet ready. “We didn’t manage to get our mid-year best and fairest vote count get together, but at least we get to have our formal presentation now,” President Parkinson said.

“For me personally, it’s the one day a year as a club, we look forward to. We set a theme each year and the boys are in suits, whilst the girls get to be in dresses.” “We would like to say a big thanks to the Ex-Services Club. I don’t know if a thank you will ever be enough, but I am grateful for the great partnership we have.”

Cootamundra Ex-Servicemens and Citizens Memorial Club will be re-opening their fortnightly cash bingo, on the first and third Saturday of each month. Bingo will resume on Tuesday and raffles to resume on Wednesday, special schnitzel day Wednesday is also back as well as Sunday roasts. The Cootamundra Development Corporation Awards will also get the go-ahead for the end of the year and the Year 12s at Cootamundra High School will have their formals at the club in November. The Ex-Service’s club would like to thank everyone for complying with current practices required, and would love to welcome new and existing members to have a look at the stunning new place, if they have not check it out yet.