SPORTS-mad residents of Cow Bay, Forest Creek and Cape Tribulation are over the moon that they can continue to watch State of Origin and Friday night football matches at their local club.
However a liquor licensing issue, which almost forced the closure of the much-loved Alexandra Bay Sports Club earlier this month, is still not fully resolved.
Club staff contacted the office of Federal MP Warren Entsch on May 17, six days before the current license was due to expire, seeking his assistance as Cairns Regional Council was refusing to endorse a liquor licensing renewal that allows them to stay open until midnight on Friday and Saturday nights.
Treasurer Amanda Lilley said the club was told by council that under CRC policy on Recreational Reserves, grounds can only be used for sporting events therefore they could not permit the club to be open after 10pm.
It is the latest in a series of obstacles that has seen the club required to undertake public insurance liability worth $20 million, and pay council $500 per year to lease the building in addition to a $19 weekly fee for use of the facilities.
Mrs Lilley said the club agreed to pay the fees to council to enable the renewal of the liquor license so the club can stay open, but the process was going to take up to three months.
“This is consequently forcing us to close the club until the leases agreement is settled,” she told Mr Entsch in an email.
A State of Origin fan himself, Mr Entsch contacted new Mayor Bob Manning on May 21 regarding the “ridiculous” situation. Cr Manning, also a football tragic, gave his commitment that the issue would be resolved before the first State of Origin match last Wednesday, May 23, and was true to his word.
“I know how important sports activities are to regional communities so I applaud Bob for his positive and proactive stance, and congratulate council on using common sense,” Mr Entsch said.
Compromising, council said the club can remain open until 12am but is not permitted to sell alcohol after 10.30pm, until such time as the lease is in place.
Mrs Lilley said she could not emphasise enough the importance of the ties between the sports club and the tight-knit local community, and the need for their liquor licence as a fundraising tool.
The club relies on proceeds from alcohol sales to assist with expenses such as public liability and council lease fees, sports days for the children, sporting equipment and to help vital fundraising efforts.
Club member Jaime Martin contacted Mr Entsch to express her thanks for the intervention but also raised another interesting issue regarding the lease of the ‘community hall’.
“The club resides in a tin shed with limited facilities, that the community built with blood, sweat tears and many beers, very unlike any community hall I have ever seen,” Ms Martin wrote.
“The former Douglas Shire Council had over $400,000 put aside for this long awaited community facility. But when the new regional council took over, our small community lost our ‘community hall’ funds.”
Mr Entsch said this was an issue that should be investigated by council as the club was a vital social centre for the community, and must not be neglected or ignored in upcoming funding rounds.