After a rocky couple of years, business seems to be booming for the Burnie RSL.
Many walking in now might not recognise the place – gone is the invasive bleeping of a room full of pokies, the general air of emptiness common to so many clubs across the country.
Instead the bar is all warmth, wood, and chatter, just small hints of a dramatic overhaul the club has undergone since a controversial move to shut down the poker machines in 2015.
RSL president Adele Britton said the decision to pack in the pokies and start the Burnie sub-branch from the ground up had been one of the best and most contentious moves the club had ever made.
The move was preceded by a six-month closure in 2014, after which then RSL president Frank McKechnie led a committee decision to run the club “wholly and solely” on volunteer power.
“We just couldn’t afford the wages,” Ms Britton said.
“When you’re looking at an RSL, if it’s got gaming you need two people in there all the time.
“That’s what was happening here in Burnie, their trading hours I think were from 11am to midnight almost every day, and there was only three or four people coming in and they would just sit in these corners of the bar.
“Now we can make it a family place, a place where people feel welcome.”
Ms Britton said the decision had received some backlash at the time from older members, but had pleased others who saw the club return to its original purpose.
We’ve gone back to our grassroots… we didn’t want that added addiction.
Adele Britton, Burnie RSL president
“They couldn’t’ see the bigger picture,” she said.
“We’ve gone back to our grassroots… we didn’t want that added addiction here in the club.
“Any person that walks in that door, they are greeted…it doesn’t matter who they are, anyone is welcome here.”
Four years on, the success seems to be growing.
The club is now open for drinks three nights a week, including a new trial to expand the business to include meals on Thursday nights as well as Wednesday and Friday.
“We seem to be (doing the right thing), we’ve still got the doors open,” Ms Britton said.
“We can still do it all on volunteers, besides the cook who gets a portion of all the meals we sell. There’s a lot of stuff gets done in this place
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