A popular and historic bar will be closed as a divide between a sub-branch and its associated RSL club over a “misunderstanding” escalates.
The Diggers Bar within the Tewantin Noosa RSL Club will close next month over a lease renewal disagreement with the Tewantin Noosa RSL Sub Branch.
The bar will close on March 3 after the RSL club informed the sub-branch it would not continue its lease of the space beyond April 27.
The sub-branch is trustee of part of the building that it shares with the RSL club at 1 Memorial Avenue, Tewantin.
The space for the bar is leased back to the club as an income stream to support veterans’ welfare and run the sub-branch.
The Diggers Bar is popular among patrons, offering food and drinks plus regular line dancing, pool competitions and live music.
Speaking with Sunshine Coast News, sub-branch secretary Kelly Ware said its veterans were “absolutely devastated” by the impending closure of the bar.
“We have 70, 80, 90-year-olds here that are absolutely devastated,” she said.
“They’ve lost their space and there are guys that treat this like their home and catch up with their mates.
“It’s heartbreaking and I’m just so sad for them.”
In a statement to SCN, the RSL Club said its decision was based off not receiving “critical information” regarding the upcoming lease renewal before its deadline.
“The club in its best efforts contacted the sub-branch on more than one occasion requesting they provide critical information regarding the renewal option within the lease,” it said via the statement.
“The sub-branch have not provided a new lease to consider, therefore the club cannot operate the Diggers Bar without a lease.”
Ms Ware said that after three years of charging reduced rent in the wake of the pandemic, the sub-branch was working to have a new lease drawn up.
“The lease is due for renewal on April 27 and we’d put that to our commercial real estate and they’ve advised that the space is worth a lot more than what we have been charging,” she said.
“We told (the club) the lease was being prepared … our lawyers were closed down over Christmas and the club wanted a new lease in January and we weren’t able to supply it to them.
“We were in contact with the club. We hand-delivered a letter to them stating that we didn’t have the lease prepared at the time, but gave them an indication of the fee and that we would get it to them as soon as our legal team prepared it.
“Later that day we were advised in a letter that they will be closing the Diggers Bar on March 3, with the keys to be returned on April 27.”
Ms Ware said the future of the space remained unknown and acknowledged significant funds would be required to get it running again.
“When we originally leased the Diggers Bar to (the club) many years ago it was a meeting hall and they put all these fixtures in,” she said.
“When they return it to us, they have already advised they will completely gut the building and it will be returned to us as a hall.
“We are speaking to (Sunshine Coast and Regional) District and RSL Queensland about getting grants but we are a small group of volunteers and at the moment we just aren’t sure what we are going to do.
“It will be closed down for a substantial amount of time.”
She said the nearby Royal Mail Hotel at Tewantin had offered the sub-branch space for its regular meetings and raffles.
The RSL club has also moved to change the membership status of sub-branch members wanting to enter the club to ‘honorary member’.
It affected 400 veterans, war widows, women’s auxiliary and Legacy members that fall under the sub-branch banner.
Ms Ware said the sub-branch members were “totally confused” by the membership changes.
“They are saying, ‘Why, what is happening? I have been a member of the club for 40 years. What have I done?'”
However, the RSL club said the membership issue had been “miscommunicated”.
“Tewantin Noosa RSL Sub Branch (and the RSL club) are two separate organisations that have always worked closely to support our common objectives,” the club said via the statement.
“The club has in recent years provided free membership to those who have paid membership to the Tewantin Noosa RSL Sub Branch and has continued to do so.
“This renewal period, sub-branch members were advised that they had been granted honorary membership (to the club) for the coming year, which has no membership fee but provides the benefit of discounts, member promotions and entertainment activities at no charge.
“In addition, an offer has been made for any sub-branch member who wishes to be a full member of the club, they can do so for a cost of only $5.50, being a 50 per cent discount.”
The statement outlined changes to the club memberships had no effect on life memberships already held within the sub-branch.
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