In a sign of the times, the Pansamian brotherhood of Victoria (Pythagoras) has taken the drastic decision to sell its clubhouse – citing a lack of members, increasing costs, and the inability to change the building to make it more profitable. The brotherhood voted to put its only major asset on the market at a general meeting.
Brotherhood president Iraklis Vayanos says the organisation would have preferred to keep the premises at 235 Victoria Street, but it was too hard to manage in its current state.
“Unfortunately, planning and other local restrictions don’t provide us with much scope to explore alternative uses … and the outgoings and taxes outweigh our income. When you couple this with a dwindling and ageing membership, retaining the premises is unviable,” he said.
The Pan Samian community is one of the oldest Greek communities in Australia, dating back to the 1920s.
Currently, fewer than 100 members make up the brotherhood – most of who are second generation, carrying on the legacy left by their parents.
Dean Kalimniou, a member for years (following his father’s contribution to the club) says he’s saddened to see the property go, but believes it will give members more options.
“It’s not as if it’s one of those things where there’s a conflict between the first and second generation,” he tells Neos Kosmos.
“This is the second generations saying ‘well look, based on the current membership, it’s unproductive. It’s just a dead asset and we can’t afford to keep it, we’d rather sell it, find something more appropriate and find other ways of organising ourselves’.”
The club has increasingly struggled to stay solvent in recent years – with costs of more than $13,000 a year – and has been hosting functions in order to raise funds.
The brotherhood is considering buying a new property that would give it a more dependable revenue stream.
Responding to the news on Facebook, Moreland City Councillor Lambros Tapinos said the decision was to be regretted and that he believed the organisation had not examined extensively how the building could be utilised for other purposes.
“Council would be happy to work with them to make the building more financially viable as a community space, owned by the Pansamian Brotherhood,” Cr Tapinos said on his post.
Mr Kalyminiou said the brotherhood had reached out to the council a number of times since they purchased the building in the 1980s but that the council had not been able to provide assistance.
Liquor licensing, noise restrictions and the lack of parking had made the building difficult to re-purpose. While the brotherhood looks at its options, the sale of the clubhouse does not mean the end of the historic community group.
Mr Vayanos reiterated that the brotherhood is bigger that its premises.
“It is just an asset … [and] one that no longer serves our needs,” he says. “I am certain that the brotherhood will emerge from this process stronger, unfettered by the past, and ready to tailor itself to the challenges of the future.”
The sale highlights the issues facing Greek community groups in deciding succession plans for their assets as memberships dwindle.
According to Melbourne professor Anastasios Tamis, some 700 Hellenic community groups are registered in Victoria, most holding significant capital assets.