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Joy as Royal British Legion's in Norwich is set to reopen - but with no booze

Committee members and members of the Royal British Legion Norwich Centre Social Club, with chairman Jill Millman, front left, and president Billy Critten, front right, angry that the Legion has closed them down. Picture: Denise Bradley

Committee members and members of the Royal British Legion Norwich Centre Social Club, with chairman Jill Millman, front left, and president Billy Critten, front right, angry that the Legion has closed them down. Picture: Denise Bradley

Archant copyright 2011

Members of the Royal British Legion are celebrating after the Norwich branch's Aylsham Road social club was saved.

The social club closed unexpectedly at the start of November after the Legion’s London head office withdrew the licence for the leaseholders to use their name.

As previously reported in the Evening News, Legion members were left shocked at the sudden closure of the centre, which was used by about 50 groups and organisations.

The leaseholders could have continued to run the centre but they would have had to pay the more expensive commercial rates, which they could not afford, so decided to close it.

But Ernie Green, chairman of the Norwich branch of the Legion, which owns the Aylsham Road building, says the social club will reopen in the middle of January.

Mr Green said: “The branch is reopening the club for the use of commercial groups and other organisations.

“It’s likely to be called the RBL centre, and we will be holding monthly meetings for our 400 members, and putting on more social events for members.”

The news was welcomed by Chloe Smith, Norwich North MP, who had expressed concern at the closure.

She said: “It’s good news for the local area. I’m pleased it was possible to have the different parties involved work together to achieve it.”

However, some Legion members have vowed to shun the reopening of the social club, which had previously been run as a commercial enterprise, because it won’t be selling alcohol.

It will be run by the Legion’s Norwich branch as a charitable non-profit making enterprise, which means that it won’t be allowed to sell alcohol, unlike the previous social club.

Mr Green added: “We will have the full entertainment licence back, but we cannot sell alcohol as we are a charity and not allowed to make a profit.”

This has annoyed Reg Woods, 75, from Aylsham Road, Norwich, said: “What’s the use of it reopening if you cannot have a pint there? We shan’t bother going there.

“We have anyway since joined the Wensum community centre in Hotblack Road, along with a lot of others. I like a couple of pints when I go out.”

Mile Cross Legion member, Maureen Huggins, also said she would not be interested if it did not serve alcohol, and former Norwich Legion branch chairman, Kim Webb, questioned whether the new centre would be successful, if it could not sell alcohol.

Mr Green said the new centre would be open for snooker, pool, table tennis, and maybe badminton, and would also have a library, coffee shop and cafe.

He said they were also holding preliminary talks with Age UK Norwich/Norfolk to use it as an advice centre and also said that the legion would try to honour those events booked by people and groups for next year.

What do you think of the club reopening? Call reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email david.bale2@archant.co.uk.

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