Bally Bowlo bounces back

May 29, 2024
Clyde Mooney

Stoic community watering hole the Balgowlah Bowling & Community Club has forged its way through an existential crisis, calling on the northern beaches to ‘Save Bally Bowlo’ lest it close permanently.

Set on a site atop the hills of Balgowlah, enjoying water views over Clontarf and Dobroyd Head, the club known to locals as ‘Bally Bowlo’ opened in 1956.

Today it is a retro-styled stalwart of the Beaches, attracting all manner of members and guests, providing cold beverages on tap and dining at Carly May’s kitchen.

But despite being a beloved social hub for generations, hard times, rising running costs and critical financial setbacks “largely out of our control” have combined to threaten the closing of the doors.

Trading only Thursday to Sunday, Bally Bowlo has diligently reinvented itself to offset a gradual decrease in lawn bowls, offering more family-orientated activities, such as trivia, live music, wedding and birthday events, even tai-chi and yoga classes, and the extremely popular barefoot bowls, accompanied by happy hour from 4-6pm.

Management have also facilitated corporate events and exhibitions, and there is a business networking group every second Thursday.

And in line with its goal to support older people staying physically and socially active, there is a vintage fitness group to help keep senior members active and mobile.

Amid the activity, contributing to the depletion of funds has been the difficulty in securing a licence to serve liquor outdoors during weekend barefoot bowls.

This comes after the club was vindicated in 2022 over a two-year noise dispute with neighbouring residents. Liquor and Gaming found no cause for action, after the club had swiftly acted on initial complaints and immediately implemented noise mitigation strategies, restricting the presence of kids on the greens.

This month the Board of Directors advised that $20,000 was needed immediately to keep the club from winding up. Beyond this, another $30,000 in short time to cover the quieter winter months.

Secretary manager Tony Wagener stepped into action and launched the “Save the Bally Bowlo” campaign through the Australian Sporting Foundation, calling on the community to sign up, or chip in some tax-deductible cash.

Wagener and his partner originally took on the kitchen lease, opening Carly May’s to considerable success. The new Sunday roast is proving very popular, to the point where guests may need to book ahead.

The club proudly boasts the fact that it does not have poker machines, and while adhering to its heritage it claims dedication to enhancing the facilities, aiming to collaborate with industry experts to secure grants and funding tailored for upgrading this kind of venue.

A ‘community steering committee’ was recently formed, to serve as a vital platform for community members to provide feedback.

Bally Bowlo is the local watering hole for Northern Beaches Deputy Mayor Georgia Ryburn, who reports she has been working with Northern Beaches Council on how they can help and support and stresses it is “really important that the community gets behind the club” at this critical time.

On a mission to raise $50,000, there has been a generous smattering of $500 and $1000 donations, and even one of $10,000, largely by benefactors wishing to remain anonymous.

As a result, this week the club champions it has “smashed” the initial goal. With the total standing at a little over $40,000 it is on the home stretch.

Wagener says they are really happy with the support, which has been “incredible”, explaining it has all happened so quickly it’s been “a bit of a blur”.

“We’re over the moon with the response … not only huge support and kind donations, but also offer of professional services and help. It’s been amazing,” he told ClubTIC.  

Bally Bowlo portrays itself as an ‘extension of people’s homes’ and wants simply to hero the ability for people to engage with their ‘burb.

“We have always had a vision to incorporate the heritage of the building and be open to the whole community,” adds Wagener.

“We’ve been very successful in bringing in lots of activities, while also being a thriving bowls club, and wanted to do this without gaming.

“We’re pretty staunch on keeping the club open for everyone.”


Balgowlah Bowling Club, Bally Bowlo

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