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Byron Shire
May 18, 2021

Licensed clubs face the challenge of a brave new world

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Byron’s licensed clubs are battling to stay in the black as the region’s changing demographics and ever-increasing entertainment options erode their bottom lines.

An examination of annual reports from the Shire’s three largest clubs – Mullumbimby Ex-Services Club, Byron Bay Services Club and the Ocean Shore Country Club – reveals that all three have operated at a loss for much of the past three years.

However, Byron Bay Services Club appears to have clawed its way back into positive territory in the past 12 months.

Mullumbimby Ex-Services Club is arguably doing it toughest among the big three.

It operated at a loss in each of the past five years, recording a deficit of $184,665 in the 2018 financial year.

The club’s main revenue streams have all fallen, particularly poker machine revenue, which dropped 12 per cent during the 2018 financial year.

‘It’s definitely a challenging industry – we’re in a leisure industry competing for people’s disposable income,’ the club’s new General Manager Andrew Spice said.

‘The big challenge for us is to diversify – providing a service or facility away from the traditional areas of food, beverage and gambling. 

‘There’s been a huge shift and the clubs doing well are those who’ve looked at other options: movies, bowling, or something that’s quite non-traditional for a club.’  

The Byron Bay Services Club also recorded losses for the 2017 and 2018 financial years, as did the Ocean Shores Country Club, though the former says it managed to turn the ship around over the past 12 months.

We’ve just finished our reporting period and we’re going to show a marked turnaround in the fortunes with a good strong profit,’ the club’s General Manager Darren Schipp said.

‘We’ve realised that we have to reconnect back with our community. There’s a lot of tourists coming to town and sometimes the locals get a bit lost as everyone chases the tourist dollar.’

‘We’re trying to get back to the roots of the club by encouraging people to join, and to reconnect by taking on the sponsorship of the Byron Rams Rugby League Club.’

The region’s smaller clubs appear to have fared somewhat better.

The Bangalow Bowling Club made a small loss in 2018 (-$5,005) but was comfortably in the black the year before (+$57,228).

Byron Bay Golf Club recorded losses in 2016 and 2017, but its revenue has increased by 26 per cent in the five years to 2018.

These clubs also rely less on poker machine revenue than the larger clubs.

Gaming revenue accounted for more than 50 per cent of revenue for both the Mullumbimby Ex-Services Club and the Byron Bay Services Club in 2018.

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  1. Poker machines are such a depressing downer on the vibe of these places, they are so last century! These clubs need to move into the 21st century and become more community minded less corporate and provide contemporary and affordable options for entertainment and give our community what they actually want,rather than some weird dated circa 1980’s tired old goldcoast formula.


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