Cessnock Leagues Club and Cessnock Ex‐Services Club will be seeking support from their respective members over the coming weeks on an amalgamation between the two clubs, which – if supported – would see the former ex‐services club site re‐opened.
The leagues club plans to partially lease a large portion of the ex-services club from its new owner, with a view to opening a venue targeting a new customer base with alternative dining and entertainment options.
The ex-services club ceased trading in November last year after seven months under administration, following ongoing financial challenges.
READ MORE: Ex-Services Club closes its doors
The deed administrator since negotiated the sale of the site, including all of its remaining physical assets, to meet outstanding creditors (in part).
It was sold in January to property investor Jim Sullivan, whose portfolio also includes the Kurri Kurri Hotel, commercial properties, shopping centres and Commonwealth offices.
Since the sale, the deed administrator and Cessnock Leagues Club have had productive discussions regarding an amalgamation between the two clubs.
“An amalgamation with Cessnock Leagues will keep the club’s net asset surplus within the community,” deed administrator Greg Russell said.
Cessnock Leagues Club CEO Paul Cousins said the club identified the opportunity to lease a portion of the ex-services club site after a “very thorough review”.
“Initial plans for the new venue includes a fresh identity with a strong focus on its food, beverage and entertainment offering to drive the business,” Mr Cousins said.
Cessnock Leagues Club’s total investment in the amalgamation is projected to be in excess of $2 million, which includes repayment of all Cessnock Ex‐Services Club’s debts as well as capital and fitout investment associated with the new venue.
The new venue is expected to deliver more than 20 new hospitality jobs.
“The club is continuing with its due diligence process, which includes detailed market research and financial modelling,” Mr Cousins said.
“Once completed, the club will await formal approval from members before negotiating terms of a lease for the Cessnock site.”
READ MORE: Massive renovation underway at Leagues Club
Mr Sullivan said he is confident the leagues club’s plans will be supported by the community.
Mr Sullivan, who lived in Cessnock as a child, said the site has huge potential for employment and entertainment opportunities.
He has been engaging local contractors to complete maintenance work, and has set about to return club memorabilia to its rightful owners.
He hopes to develop the front of the club (with Vincent Street frontage) for retail purposes, with the Leagues Club planning to take on a large portion of the centre of the club, and another tenant to lease the auditorium.
“I want to return it to beneficial public use,” Mr Sullivan said.
“It will add to the vibrancy of that end of the main street.”
Members of the leagues club and the ex‐services club will be required to formally vote on the proposed amalgamation at separate special general meetings, which are expected to be scheduled by the end of May (with notices to be sent to members by the end of April).
If the amalgamation has the support of members, the new venue is expected to open in spring 2018, following implementation of the planned building improvements.