Pittwater RSL has opened a new beer garden in response to the desire for outdoor seating areas.
According to Pittwater RSL President Julie Emerson (main image), the new outdoor space at Pittwater RSL called ‘The Deck’ is a direct response to feedback from people about having an outdoor space available at the club.
“During lockdown everyone was concerned about being close to people. We want our community to be able to come to the club and feel comfortable. This way they can come out here, have a lovely time, watch the TV, watch sports, have a drink, and it’s outdoors, which is what people want.
“Older people are perfectly happy being inside, they actually want to be out of the weather, but younger people don’t care. To be competitive for them, we’ve got to provide this,” said Ms Emerson.
Ms Emerson said that while the popularity of outdoor areas increased because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some renovations to local hotels had been overdone and people were looking for simpler options.
“Our layout is a bit of a mix. We’ve taken parts of what we feel has worked elsewhere. People want a comfortable space to watch sport and they want to have a group at tables for their lunch or dinner,” explained Ms Emerson.
The club has repurposed the upper deck of a car park immediately adjacent to the main club building, which self-selected the location of The Deck according to Ms Emerson.
“It sort of became a natural space, we’ve got a door and bar there. If it is raining, we have indoor space right there. You can also be out here and undercover, so it was a natural selection,” said Ms Emerson.
Like many hospitality venues, Pittwater RSL used the enforced break from customers caused by its third lockdown to do the construction for The Deck, and also used it as a way to retain staff.
“We weren’t earning anything in the months of lockdown. Financially, it was tough. The loss to our bottom line was around $1.5m but we recognised that we needed to hold on to our staff. Our staff are the most important part of our business. The Board really supported the decision to take a hit and look after our staff, and unlike others, now we’ve got our staff.
“Sadly, we made some learnings from the first two [lockdowns] in order to make the third one better. Some of those hard decisions were basically what to do with staff. That’s why we did the hampers. First off, we did the hampers to be able to stay connected with our community.
“But the other reason that we did them is we’re paying our staff, you can get them to do something meaningful. Lockdowns can put people in a bad headspace. If they have work, they have to get up, get dressed, come in with their happy face on to do whatever it was that we’re doing. We were paying them, so we wanted them to do something,” said Ms Emerson.
Another project was helping with The Deck itself. Although all the construction was done by the club’s maintenance contractors, staff helped to ready the area by building some of the tables.
“46k hospitality jobs are now being advertised. We lost one staff member the whole lockdown. We’re really proud of that and the staff really respect what we’ve done for them. It was the Board’s decision to look after our staff, because we recognise that’s what makes this business. The businesses that looked after their staff are in a better position now.
“It is about the employment, but the club is a safe place for people, where as a single woman, you can just come and have a beer on your own. If you’re an older person, you come here and read your book in front of the fire. If you’re a businessperson, you come here and use the Wi-Fi, get a coffee and sit up in the corner and do your work. We’ve got all those types of people.
“It’s really important to be there for them. I was in libraries for a long time in my council life. Libraries are not about books, libraries are about a community space where people connect. I see the club as the same sort of thing. We recognise that we were lucky that we’ve got space, but until now we didn’t have the outdoor space,” said Ms Emerson.
The launch of The Deck was celebrated with guests on the evening of Thursday, 11 November, prior to its opening to the public on Friday.
Equipped with three bars, pool tables, foosball tables, Mexican tapas, DJs, live music and sport screens, The Deck is an 18+ area, open 5.00pm – 10.00pm Friday – Saturday and 3.00pm – 9.00pm Sunday.
Images: Northern Beaches Advocate