Last drinks are looming at the Kerikeri RSA as high overheads and declining patronage force the closure of the old soldiers' club.

The last pint will be poured on April 26, a day after the final Anzac Day ceremony at the Cobham Rd complex.

Club president John Baine sent a letter to all members this week saying, ''It is with regret that I have to advise that out trading income versus overheads has reached a level that operating out of our current premises at 37 Cobham Rd can no longer be sustained''.

The land and buildings had been sold late last year but the purchaser had since decided not to proceed with the conditional sale.

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Two other options were being pursued but until a sale was concluded a decision on the RSA's future couldn't be put to members.

Preliminary discussions had been held with the owner of the Homestead Tavern to allow members to continue meeting there in the interim, Baine wrote.

Kerikeri RSA will close for good on April 26. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Kerikeri RSA will close for good on April 26. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Thursday evening, the first club night since the announcement, saw the biggest crowd at the RSA in months, but it was too late to make a difference.

The mood was one of regret and resignation, with many members saying the closure was inevitable.

Les Rockel said the club was ''doing really well'' when he joined 12 years ago, and was packed for Christmas functions and concerts by the likes of the Golden Saxophones.

''But the building is two to three times bigger than it needs to be, and rates and upkeep still need to be paid. At the end of the day if the money isn't there, there's only one decision the committee can make, which is sad,'' he said.

Kevin Mangnall said members had been long kept in the dark about what was happening.

''It's a sign of the times really. All the military guys, certainly from World War II, have just about gone. I'll miss the camaraderie and the inter-service rivalry.''

Les Franks said part of the problem was that the RSA hadn't been able to attract young members.

As well as being a meeting place for regulars it fulfilled an important function for the lonely and elderly.

''It was always a place you knew you could come in and get some cheerful company. A lot of older people who are running short of friends and company, won't get that any more.''

Committee members at the club on Thursday didn't want to say more than was in the official letter, but Treasurer Graham Kidd said the decision wasn't taken lightly.

''With ever-diminishing patronage and high overheads, at some stage you've got to make a decision.''

The final dawn service at the Cobham Rd site will start at 5.45am on April 25. Discussions are under way to find a new location for the cenotaph.

Last drinks and meals will be served on Friday, April 26.

Kerikeri RSA Inc, which operates the bar and restaurant, has about 500 members but not all are regular patrons.

The Advocate understands overheads include about $25,000 in rates and $12,000 in insurance a year.

The land and buildings — which include a bar, kitchen and dining room, a function and conference centre, and a house — are owned by the Kerikeri RSA Trust, which is continuing its efforts to find a buyer.

The function centre is used for weddings, funerals, Sunday school, Lions, Probus, business meetings and trade presentations.

Both Kerikeri RSA Inc and the Kerikeri RSA Trust have previously said their preference is to find smaller premises which are still easily accessible and near the centre of town.

In January the RSA's national organisation released an internal report prepared by QC Christopher Hodson, who concluded New Zealand's 182 RSA clubs would not survive unless they found a way to be relevant to younger members.