Rebuilt with temporary equipment in February, the club served as a hub for a community dealing with the horrors of the fires until the coronavirus hit and pushed the town into isolation.
Now the entire community is facing another outbreak, forcing the club to shut down once again.
“We had members gathering on the greens hugging, counselling each other after the fires. To not have that, to be shut down for a third time, it’s just devastating,” Ms Howarth said.
“It has been a nightmare. Having the club burn down, to rebuild before the first round of COVID-19 and then this one again.”
The small town, along with the rest of the Batemans Bay region to the north, was thrust back into a self-imposed lockdown earlier this week after eight COVID-19 cases were traced back to the popular Soldiers Club.
After drought, fires, a flood and now two bouts of coronavirus lockdown, the local economy is on its knees.
Owner of Starfish Cafe on the Batemans Bay waterfront, Paul O’Connor, hasn’t served a customer since March 23.
Mr O’Connor, who invested in the cafe last year, lost the peak season to the bushfires before shutting down during the first wave of coronavirus. He took that as an opportunity to renovate the cafe, but its reopening has now been pushed back because of the most recent spike.
“We’ve sort of managed to just hold on up until now. We’re right at the brink now,” he said.
“If we don’t get summer, we’ll be done.”
The Batemans Bay local said his business was losing up to $5000 a week and needed to reopen just to be able to address the mounting bills.
“The whole town has just come to a standstill… mentally it’s scary.”
Three of Mr O’Connor’s staff, including head chef Aaron Crowther, were caught up in the Soldiers Club outbreak and have gone into isolation.
Mr Crowther, who on Friday was still waiting for his test results, went to a local soccer game last week attended by someone who was at the Soldiers Club.
“The hospitality industry has taken an absolute beating this year. It will be hard for a lot of places to recover. It could take a good couple of years,” Mr Crowther said from isolation.
Scores of businesses across the region have been affected by the isolation requirements imposed on anyone who attended the Soldiers Club on July 13, 15, 16 and 17.
Among them are dozens of health and aged-care staff, according to local GP Andrew Gibson.
Dr Gibson said the Soldiers Club had been one of the busiest venues in town since regional travel restrictions were lifted on June 1.
“The reason the Soldiers Club was such a risk was because there are very few restaurants open in town and if people were holidaying here, were going there,” Dr Gibson said.
“We’re pretty safe here and we’re pretty upset that it has reared its head again, everyone is anxious and it feels a bit like a ghost town.”
The Herald understands several health workers and dozens of aged-care workers are among the hundreds of people in quarantine.
The region’s massive retiree population makes it particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus, which has devastated aged-care facilities through Sydney and Melbourne.
“That would be the most horrible thing if it gets into the aged-care facilities. We can’t look after those people here,” Dr Gibson said.
Senior NSW minister and local member Andrew Constance said the age of the local population was an “incredible concern”.
“There’s this unknown associated with this point in time. Its unsettling, its nerve-racking and in many ways frightening,” Mr Constance said.
Mr Constance, who saw first-hand the devastation last summer’s fires doled out on the region, said he was taking little comfort from a run of days with zero confirmed cases.
“This is just as deadly but you can’t tangibly see it,” he said.
Batemans Bay Business and Tourism Chamber president Alison Miers said the region had swelled with tourists through June and early April, before sinking back into lockdown.
“It was dead until the first of June when travel restrictions lifted and then it’s been pumping since then … and now it has emptied out again,” Ms Miers said.
“Quite a few businesses were doing really good trade, then you get buoyed and think ‘we’re going to be all right’ and then everyone has closed.”
Tom Rabe is Transport Reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.