On Saturday 12th November we learned from the GMB union that 9 of its members have been given notice of redundancy by Swanley Town Council. They all work at the Olympic.
It also emerged that the decision to close the bar and restaurant facilities was taken at the closed session of Wednesday night’s Full council meeting. The Labour members of the Council did not support the motion to close the restaurant and bar and argued that any final decision be delayed until the new Town Clerk was in place and in a position to assess the position and take appropriate action. This was rejected by the Tories.
One ray of light in the situation is that the Council have not decided on a wholesale closure, but will retain the golf franchise, the snooker and the bowls. It will be also open for conferences and private receptions, but the catering facilities will be limited. Another option was to franchise the site as a commercial venture. This was rejected.
The demise of the Olympic has been the result of poor management by the Council . Decisions were made without proper planning and with no appreciation of the consequences. and this is resulted in a forecast deficit of over £200,000 this year.
When the Tories from took over control of the Council form Labour, the Olympic was in surplus, but since then, the profits have dwindled and turned into massive losses.
What are the reasons for this?
There are many reasons, here are some of the most notable:
- The popular Thursday Quiz was closed with no notice. This quiz filled the bar.
- The many clubs and societies regularly meeting there were priced out and moved elsewhere. A move that denied the Council both hire fees and bar income.
- The disastrous move to change the Olympic from a bar with food to a family restaurant. This was done with no real business plan and profit forecasts. This discouraged casual customers and did not attract the dining numbers that were hoped for.
- Staff wastage, many of the hard working permanent staff were replaced,. Many of the new worker did not show the same level of commitment and often reported that they were working in a hostile atmosphere. Hence there developed a high staff turn over a heavy reliance on agency staff.
- The closure of the venue most evenings and the loss of evening bar income.
- No real attempt was made to adapt the venue to changing times and to attract a different clientele.
- It looks as if the Swanley community has lost valued asset through the uncaring attitude of the management and poor planning. More importantly, nine workers have lost their jobs.
In the 2015 election campaign the Tories stated that Swanley Banqueting was “safe in their hands”. Since then the Woodlands has closed and the Olympic just a sham of what it used to be.
Let us hope that the Tories see the error of their ways and begin a campaign to revive Swanley Banqueting before it disappears altogether.