Eden Fishermen's Club doors remain open despite 'decimation of tourism trade'

Eden Fishermen's Club doors remain open despite 'decimation of tourism trade'

Eden Fishermen's Recreation Club has responded to rumours the venue's closure was imminent, saying people haven't taken time to get their facts straight.

Chief executive officer Andrew Terry said the misinformation stemmed back to speculations following the release of the club's financial report and annual general meeting held on August 30.

The organisation operates the Fishermen's Club in town as well as the Eden Gardens Country Club.

Mr Terry said club members were asked to a support motion to clear the way for the board to effectively declare remaining land areas of the town site non-core, as the club cannot proceed to seek potential commercial interest without member approval.

He reiterated the discussed changes were about a longer term plan to reinvigorate the club with more modern facilities, repositioning the business in line with a senior lifestyle development, including a wellness centre, restaurants/bars and fitness, recreation and sporting facilities.

"The only way this may be achievable, if it is possible, is to try and find a commercial buyer for the main club in town and ascertain ultimately what a purchase price would need to be," he said.

"At our meeting, members simply gave the board the authority to explore those options - it doesn't mean it will happen, but we needed member approval to seek commercial interest.

"If a solution can't be found, we will need to close one of the two clubs. It's financially unsustainable to carry them both in their current condition."

Mr Terry said the damage and ongoing fallout from 2020's string of events had resulted in a loss of "40-50 per cent" of the organisation's entire income.

"So we are in the process engaging property brokers to put out for expressions of interest - this wasn't an overnight decision, the club has been attempting to do this since 2002 and membership have been aware of it.

"There is a lot of support and we are trying to ensure we offer the best facilities we can, they are are a major part of our tourist economy, not just to the club but to the whole region.

"Member support at the meeting was overwhelming, everyone is hoping we get to see it done," Mr Terry said.

The strategic development discussed refers to a plan to consolidate the club's registered trading activities to a single site based at the Eden Gardens Country Club, with works due to commence there in a couple of months and a DA currently before council.

"An overall business plan would see us completely redevelop the Eden Gardens site, this means a major redevelopment of the existing site, including upgrading club sporting facilities," Mr Terry said.

"We were to due to present this plan in February, but the bushfires and then COVID, all the events 2020 has delivered, have pushed this back.

"These items have been sitting in the wings for years, and finally presented recently, which gives the board, under the clubs act, an ability to explore more sustainable options.

"If you'd been at meeting, you'd know there was an extensive presentation and an almost unanimous agreement," he said.

Mr Terry said over the last two decades the club has only made a profit in six of the 20 years and that the existing 70-year-old building would cost an estimated $7-10million to refurbish, based on commercial construction figures.

That is funding the club doesn't have access to, nor borrowing capacity for, and the CEO said members had identified the long-term future of the establishment rests in becoming more of a senior lifestyles operation.

"Eden's future economy lies there, it's our best opportunity to attract an increase in the tourism dollar - new facilities are needed and this is an enormous opportunity come post-COVID," Mr Terry said.

"We can see a domestic tourism opportunity for the Far South Coast, once restrictions ease and people can travel more again, all and sundry expect the region to see increase and tourism operators need to provide the infrastructure and facilities for this to be supported.

"This area has been devoid of commercial investment for decades - from our point of view, we are trying to encourage $50million to be spent on Eden Gardens, including 118 lifestyle units and 16 freehold lots as house and land packages," Mr Terry said.

Currently in its first stages, it is envisioned the development will take four years to construct and may be able to increase based on market demand capacity.

"We will not be able to trade from both sites, the country club has limited trading conditions and people are just not going out or spending as they were, our overall trading is down 36 per cent since the end of December," Mr Terry said.

"Like a lot of other businesses we are in a critical state and decisions need to be made.

"The tourism trade has been absolutely decimated and we are unlikely to see changes to this until 2021.

"These are exceptional and difficult times for everyone, but at this stage we continue to trade, and all things being equal, with good planning, I have a high degree of confidence we will get through to other side.

"We have announced our long-term future strategy and obviously have concerns, not just with the local economy but also the national economy, the country is yet to experience fully the effect of this recession," Mr Terry said.

Jobkeeper provided significant relief to the club, but huge reductions to normal business have been made, such as the loss of live entertainment owing to social distancing requirements.

"Along with our advisers we will continue to monitor our financial position, we are very flexible and fluid about how we go forward," Mr Terry said.

"Part of the issue with the misinformation arises from a Facebook community group. It's fake news, a total miscommunication, they don't consult with the club," Mr Terry said.

"We're still here, the door is still open, hopefully we'll keep it that way."