In rental limbo since 2018

A suburban bowls club has been operating in rental limbo for more than five years and is now petitioning its local council for a long-term agreement.   

Wayne Kennedy, a member of the Preston Reservoir Bowls Club, plays a practice match. Photo: Elizabeth Cotterell

The Preston Reservoir Bowls Club has been asking the Darebin Council for a long-term lease agreement since its last one ran out in 2018.  

Maree Crozier, the club’s venue manager, said the long-running saga meant the club had not been able to plan ahead.

“We actually traded here for five years without a lease,” she said. “Then after the five years, they did what they called a bridging lease but backdated it. They backdated it four years, it was current for one year, which was up in May of last year. So, come May this year, we’re already one year out of that lease.” 

She said the club needed the security a lease would bring. 

“Building, planning ahead, nothing like that can go on … it’s not a cheap place to run … if we sit here and wait for them to kick us out in 10 years, we’ll just be broke,” Crozier said.

John Frawley, a volunteer member of the board, said it would be a shame for the community if the club shut down. 

“There are a lot of young families now in Reservoir,” he said. “House prices are pushing the Thornbury/Northcote crowd out this way and they really have nowhere to go in Reservoir. There are outdoor spaces for picnics and the like but no facility like this around. We’ve seen it with our music nights that we have, it draws heaps of people and young families.”

Frawley said the club had considered subleasing a space in the future. 

“There’s a commercial kitchen in there that could be used as a restaurant or something similar. There’s not really many dining options down here … so, another restaurant or something would be gold for the residents,” he said.

Crozier also said modernising the club could bring more people in. 

“We’re not Fitzroy or Brunswick, you know, they’re trendy, they’ve got the vibe. We’re trying to create that vibe, but our hands are virtually tied,” she said.

The club’s petition to get a lease currently has more than 730 signatures gained in just two weeks.  

Frawley said Ged Kearney, the Federal MP for Cooper, was instrumental in the petitioning process. 

“Basically, after being given the brush off by council for so long, we went and saw Ged,” Frawley said. “She said she’d make some inquiries and go into bat for us. Heard nothing much back. I think they gave her the brush off as well. So, she said ‘stuff it, let’s organise a campaign. Let’s start it up. Make some noise’.” 

He said the plan from here was to keep engaging with the council and get “as many signatures as we can on the petition” in the hope the council will “give us what we want, or at least meet us halfway”.

“We can survive like this, but that’s all were doing now, surviving. We can’t actually turn a profit, or draw more people in because of the catch 22, we don’t have that surety,” Frawley said.

Darebin Council was contacted but refused to comment due to the issue being tabled for an upcoming meeting. A spokesperson said it was likely to be discussed in April. 



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