By now, Paula Tocquer and Jon Dibbs had hoped to be enjoying a drink at Cook Terrace, the members bar of Mona Vale SLSC with its glorious views out past the headlands and the ocean pool.
Sadly, it’s still a hard hat area, due to the record rainfall that has delayed the opening of the $6.6 million rebuild of a much-loved architectural eyesore that had served the club since 1969.
The partial opening of the new club house (the club itself dates to 1923) will now be sometime this month (April).
“Yes, we’ve had our setbacks,” admits Paula, president of the Mona Vale club since 2020, citing COVID and global supply chain issues.
However a major time delay, she shares, was the late delivery of the signature panoramic glass ordered for the central section.
Hello? Have none of the councillors, architects or club committee members ever watched Kevin McCloud’s Grand Designs? It’s always the bloody glass that holds up the project and prevents the building being waterproof once winter sets in.
“No, our glass didn’t come from Germany,” laughs Paula. “It was made here in Australia, but it had to be a special glass to withstand the kind of winds we get here on the Northern Beaches.”
“And don’t call it a bar,” adds Jon, who now doubles as the club’s head of life saving and licensee. “It’s a members area which serves food and drink. More importantly, the club only closed for one summer season.”
Paula is too polite to say, but the redevelopment of Mona Vale SLSC has avoided some of the problems which beleaguer their friends at nearby Avalon SLSC – the first surf club on the Northern Beaches to undergo such a reinvention for 21st Century needs.
Both buildings are now owned by Northern Beaches Council and leased by the surl clubs. But Avalon SLSC, which opened in 2014, was conceived and constructed under the old cash-strapped Pittwater Council.
Pittwater Council awarded tender to the high-profile Trippas White Group (which runs well-frequented, year-round eateries in the Eastern Suburbs and CBD). The terms allowed Trippas White rights not only to the ocean view restaurant – Avalon on the Beach – and the popular surfside kiosk, but also the use (on Fridays and Saturdays) of the Ocean Room, capable of seating up to 120 guests.
The surf club was left with only the income from its Bangalley Bar, the Nippers canteen and weekday hire of the Ocean Room for community yoga and pilates classes.
But when COVID struck the facilities leased to Trippas White shut. Much to the frustration of Avalon residents, visitors and the surf club itself, the café and the restaurant have been closed ever since.
The Ocean Room remains off-limits to the club to lease for functions.
“The dispute is between Northern Beaches Council and Trippas White Group, advises Bernadette McKay, Avalon SLSC’s president. “The club hopes a resolution can be reached soon.”
Council would only say negotiations between it and Trippas White were “ongoing”.
“We’re very different from Avalon,” Paula claims. “Our model is still very much what the old surf club was”.
“At Mona Vale, the surf club manages the function space. We’ll be utilising it for club events and training as well as hiring out to community groups, businesses and function organisers. The income will go to supporting the club, but we’ll also allow other groups to use the function space at no cost. And we can let it out to whoever we choose and collect the income.”
Council and the club have combined to choose the ground floor cafe and elevated restaurant tenants – which, unlike what happened at Avalon, are separate businesses.
“With the cafe, the club chose the tenant while the council sat in and gave us advice,” Paula says.
And the winner is? “Nine Yards Coffee, she announces.
“We thought the main thing adults want at a beachside cafe is great coffee – and they do great tea too. We went down to their base in Brookvale and loved their coffee and their menu.
“But it will be different in Mona Vale. Kids come up from the beach and want hot chips or a bacon and egg roll – and parents don’t want it to cost a bomb.”
Much the same is true about the restaurant – chosen by the council but approved by the club. It will be run by the same operators at Lovat Newport.
“We need a restaurant that appeals to local families and is affordable,” Paula says. “And they’ll provide the bar menu for our club bar, Cook Terrace.”
See the article published in Pittwater Life, April 2022 issue, page 18.