LAST DRINKS: Grafton Gentlemen?s Club treasurer Bill McEwan, left, president Peter Roland, and vice-president Graham Forman toa
LAST DRINKS: Grafton Gentlemen?s Club treasurer Bill McEwan, left, president Peter Roland, and vice-president Graham Forman toa

It?s time, 119 years to be precise, gentlemen please

By ADRIAN MILLER

LAST drinks please gentlemen.

The Grafton Club in Legacy House, which once hosted three Knights of the Realm in one night, and has the oldest poker machine in Grafton, closed for the final time last night after 119 years. Founded in 1886 as a place where women were barred and unwelcome people kept out, the Grafton Club was the height of privilege for the professional workers of the town.

But as the times changed, so did the club.

As the years passed, membership rules were relaxed and women were admitted.

Club president Peter Roland, a member since 1973, said the club had been a centre of social life in Grafton since its inception and its functions were at times the hottest ticket in town.

Formed with 62 members, the club, formerly known as the Gentlemen's Club, grew to include more than 200 in the 1970s before declining to less than 100 today. Mr Roland said in the club's heyday, it was an honour to be a member.

"Membership was regarded as something people wanted to belong to and if you worked in a certain profession you were expected to belong to it," he said.

"It was regarded as a matter of some prestige to join."

But now, because of falling membership, changing work patterns and the introduction of the breathalyser in the 1980s, the Grafton Club has been forced to close its doors.

Mr Roland said while it was sad to see it go, it was inevitable.

"The club has been surviving on borrowed time for some years now," he said.

"We had to sell off land and liquor licences which allowed us to trade longer than expected, but the closing was only a matter of time."

David Abrahams, a member since 1956, said the breathalyser was a major contributing factor to the club's decline.

"The introduction of the breathalyser really killed it," he said.

"Because of their (members) type of profession, they couldn't afford to run the risk of losing their licence.

"So at that stage it went from being a place that used to get 50 to 60 people on a Friday night, to a place which got 10 to 12.

"It's sad because it's been a landmark in the professional and commercial life of the city an



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