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Troubled club given new life as a Retreat for soldiers

Stricken social group reopens — less than a month after shutting

REBORN: The United Forces Social Club is now The Retreat
REBORN: The United Forces Social Club is now The Retreat

A CLUB which was formed to offer sanctuary to soldiers returning from war re-opened to the public on Armed Forces Day. The former United Forces Social Club, in Central Parade, opened its doors under the new name The Retreat on Saturday, and welcomed a coachload of visitors from a Royal British Legion branch in the Midlands. The club was forced to stop trading earlier this month because it could not pay its bills, but chairman Michael Britton said the situation had now been resolved. Mr Britton, who took over last year after the previous committee stood down, said:

“We are taking it back to what it used to be, a retreat at the heart of Herne Bay’s community. We have already invited groups to come and use it for free and the name reflects its original intent, to be a retreat for soldiers, their families and their offspring. The old club was trading illegally because there was not enough coming in to pay the bills but we have managed to use some money from the May Lodge Property Trust and we are now starting with some money behind us. We are all feeling much more positive now than we have for a long time.”

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The club is based in the May Lodge building, also home to the town’s branch of the Royal British Legion, and owned by a different charity, the May Lodge Property Trust. The social club rented the bar and ground floor while the Legion has the upper area. Mr Britton said:

“From now on we will be paying into the trust fund for the upkeep of the club and we have no outstanding bills from the previous era. The debts could have closed us at any time but now we have taken the staff back on and we are looking to the future.”

The club is run by The Retreat Herne Bay Limited as an arm’s length company run by a management board from the trust. Mr Britton is chairman of the board, which also features two trustees, businessmen and company secretary Roy Abrahams. He said:

“It is a different structure now and we have taken it back to how it was originally set up. and hopefully it will now move on from all the uncertainty.”

• This is the third reincarnation for the club, which was forced to close when it was the May Lodge Club because of debts. After that closure, it reopened following a donation from a mystery benefactor.

Herne Bay Gazette, June 25th 2014

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