Avalon Beach RSL Build Time Slashed

When Avalon Beach RSL undertook renovations in 1992 there was a perception among members that they got little bang for their buck. Now, after a $1.8m refurbishment the club is transformed and no one’s questioning the value.

According to former General Manager Ron Berczelly, if there is a question on anyone’s lips it’s: “How was the project finished two months early?”

Were the quizzical ones to take the time to investigate their builder, club specialist Merlot Constructions, they would soon find that of 132 projects over 18 years, they have never finished late and in most case are consistently early.

Ron said that the club’s building committee, the members of which included two builders and an electrician, was more than impressed, and not just with the speed.

Merlot’s innovative design solved problems that had hampered the club for years. Expanding the dining area out onto a covered deck and into parklands opened up the club dramatically, doubling patronage literally from day one.

Moving the main entrance eight metres meant that visitors no longer had to access the club through the gaming area and TAB, a boon for families visiting the new dining area.

Designing a cool room behind the club’s central bar meant that no longer did the bar have to be stocked from a cellar at the other end of the long narrow club during service times, a time wasting exercise and an inconvenience to patrons.

Merlot was one of three companies asked to tender for the project. Each was asked for a conceptual design and pricing. Ron said that Merlot’s concept clearly showed the company’s extensive experience within clubs, something that came as no surprise to Board members who had inspected the projects of numerous builders including Merlot, looking at some 20 clubs and hotels during their planning process.

The process had taken more than four years as the club negotiated to lease a 400m2 area of park that would allow for the extension of the dining area.

“The problem that we had and that builders had to resolve in their plans was the limitation imposed by our footprint,” Ron said.

“The club occupies 986m2 but it was just 11m wide.”

“We also wanted the builders to demonstrate how the rebuilding, which was basically a re-jigging of the entire club, would be achieved with only a minimal impact on trading.”

When Merlot was finally chosen above the club’s previous builder who had also been asked to tender, the Merlot team and the Avalon Beach RSL Board at the time sat down with the club’s wish list of features developed from visits to numerous other establishments including the Randwick Club and North Sydney’s Commodore Hotel.

From these planning sessions Merlot developed a number of ideas that were then refined to working drawings that would see the TAB relocated upstairs to free up space downstairs and the Gaming Room and general lounge areas refurbished while the entry was moved and the dining area doubled in size and opened up with a 16 metre long bi-fold door.

A dumb waiter allowed the kitchen to service the dining area which was temporarily re-located upstairs. Merlot removed the upstairs snooker room and darts recess to accommodate the sports bar and TAB and that was renovated first, and then the whole trading area was relocated overnight with no loss of trade.

After this was achieved it was an easy matter to screen off the downstairs construction site to allow work to proceed apace on the major part of the renovations.

Ron said that the remarkable effort of transforming the club in four months instead of the contracted six months was down to exceptional organisation.

“Paul, the Project Manager, was extremely thorough, particularly with his paperwork. Everything was documented and everything had history. There was never any argy bargy with variations and the scope of works complete with stages and dates meant that we always knew where we were up to, albeit we were always running early.”

Not even variations were a problem. Most were at the instigation of the club and in round figures amounted to around $50,000 on a $1.8m contract.

“The club was delighted and the members and visitors voted with their feet in the most positive way from day one,” Ron said.