Chichester Rugby Club's refurbished Oaklands Pavilion set to reopen - 'We have hopefully weathered the storm'
Chichester Rugby Club's refurbished base is set to reopen for the first time this year.
Having been hit hard by by the Covid-19 pandemic, with rugby stopped and the Oaklands Pavilion closed, the club has been starved of income throughout the pandemic.
The venue has been closed since the start of the second lockdown in December but, now, in line with government guidelines, will begin to start serving food and drink and host community events from May 17.
Club secretary Jeremy Martell: "We had to take a step back in light of the Covid situation.
"It's been tough, as it has been for everybody, especially those in the entertainment and hospitality sector.
"Being a contact sport, it's kind of a double-edged as we couldn't open the clubhouse and the guys couldn't practice or play matches and nothing really happened at the tail end of the season."
Jeremy said there has been some 'light refurbishments' the bar area and main hall, whilst the pavilion has been closed.
"We can seat up to 150 people [in the hall] and 47 people around the bar," he said.
"We've been totally Covid-compliant. We've made a virtual video of how people will have to come through the club house.
"We've got new mobile tills so we can actually serve people as, before, they had to come to the bar.
"We are going to diversify and offer an events venue. We've got a golf day coming up and a Chibiza event to support and raise money for the club.
"We've got our first wedding booked for September next year. There's an 18 month waiting list for wedding venues and we thought it would be silly not to open the club up now for people who want to use it."
Jeremy said there are further plans to develop the rugby club facilities.
He said: "We want to utilise the space downstairs better, for the changing room and to store a lot of the kit.
"We want players to be attracted to playing at Oaklands Pavilion.
"At the moment, the changing rooms aren't really up to scratch. We are hoping to refurbish those later this year so it's an enjoyable experience for the players as well."
Jeremy thanked club members for their 'fantastic support', particularly those who retained their membership despite the closure.
He added: "That's really kept us going forward along with the government and RFU [Rugby Football Union] support
"We are all run by volunteers. It's been a really humbling experience to be around the team who have brought the club through it.
"We've hopefully weathered the storm. We are very open to new sponsors and old sponsors doing different things.
"We will have events popping up so keep an eye on social media.
"It's a venue that can be enjoyed by anybody, even if they just want to come in and have a cup of tea a pint of beer or to rent the whole place.
"There's not many places you can sit on a balcony and have a view like the Cathedral and overlooking Oaklands Park. It's pretty special, I think."