IT’S HAPPY hour every hour down at West Byfleet Social Club after they were named the UK’s club of the month.
The Station Approach-based watering hole has been recognised by Club Journal as the leading working men’s club in the whole of the country, for this month.
And you would be hard-pushed to find a more professional team than the one behind the scenes at West Byfleet.
President Shane Burrows is a former police inspector, treasurer Tim Wright is an accountant and club secretary Dave Cunningham used to be head of training for Barclays Bank.
On top of that, stewards Ian Geldard and Stella McMillan ran their own pub for six years and even hold power breakfasts and team-building sessions for the staff.
Together they’ve come up with a winning formula for this club – a landmark on the main rail line to Waterloo – which despite being 100 years old has a modern and welcoming appearance ann-ounced by picnic tables and hanging baskets at the front of the building.
Dave explained: “We hold regular brainstorming sessions away from the regular committee meetings. We identified the need to attract women and younger people as the key element to the club’s long-term future, so we came up with a plan.”
The club produces a regular leaflet detailing its upcoming events, which is distributed in the village and put out on all its tables.
So, as well as installing a jukebox with a choice of 1.8 million songs, the committee took their trophy cabinet and noticeboards down, introduced subdued lighting to make it more female-friendly, and spent £70,000 on smartening the building, including £20,000 upgrading the kitchen.
Much of the work on refurbishing the club was carried out by members themselves at cost-price, which certainly pleased treasurer Tim.
He said: “The members themselves did all the decorating as well, it’s a real community effort.”
The club’s open style, with glass panels separating the main rooms, was even created by one of its members, architect Chris Jolley, though that was back in 1988. The rooms are separate enough, however, for the members to have voted for the bar to be non-smoking, before the universal ban came in.
Although West Byfleet is primarily a commuter village there are plenty of people there in the evenings and at weekends and the club is the heart of the community – its residents’ association even meets at the club, which is helped by a covenant that means there are no ‘proper’ pubs in the village.
The club’s latest fundraising effort involves the whole community and follows the death of Les Priddon, who collapsed outside the club earlier this year.
First-aiders revived him, but sadly, he died five days later.
Now members are raising the money to buy a heart-reviving defibrillator machine, which will be used by the whole village.
The appeal has been taken up by the local branch of Waitrose, where shoppers, given a choice of three charities to support, mostly chose the defibrillator.
Among the fundraising events was a 24-hour pool marathon in which Ian, who used to be a professional pool player, played 240 games and won 221 of them, raising £600, while another group cycled to the club from London via the network of canal towpaths.
Last year saw the Mayor of Woking visit the club to unveil a plaque on its centenary, and the committee aims to keep growing. It has taken the radical step of introducing a joining fee of £10, plus an eye-watering £25 annual membership fee – possibly the Union’s most expensive subscription.
The committee’s view is that if people are prepared to pay that much to be members, they obviously value the club and will make sure they visit frequently to get value for their money.
“It’s vital to keep the finances healthy and the club looking good,” says Shane.
“Once standards slip and you let things go, it’s hard to bring it back up to scratch.”
That, however, won’t be happening with this team in charge.