Historic Liverpool building added to 'at risk register'

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The Grade II listed theatre was forced to close its doors in 2023 due to ‘unworkable’ costs.

A much-loved Liverpool venue has been added to the 'at risk register' that highlights theatres under threat of closure, redevelopment or severe decay.

The UK’s national advisory public body for theatres, The Theatres Trust, says the Epstein Theatre 'faces an uncertain future' despite public calls for its reopening.

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The Grade II listed theatre in Hanover House has operated as a performance space since 1913, reopening as the Epstein Theatre in 2011 following a major refurbishment. However, it was forced to close its doors in 2023 due to ‘unworkable’ costs.

In a management agreement made in 2018, the council had agreed to pay for a proportion of the Epstein's rent, service charge, utilities and maintenance work, which was costing the local authority in excess of £100,000 per year.

The agreement came to an end last year and Epstein Entertainments Ltd were unable to reach a workable agreement on costs with the landlord. The entertainment company said requests for Liverpool City Council to provide £50,000 per year, for the next five years, were made but ultimately denied.

The Epstein Theatre.The Epstein Theatre.
The Epstein Theatre.

Officially closing its doors on June 30, 2023, Epstein Entertainment Ltd continue to seek a solution, enabling the theatre to reopen, however this is still yet to be found.

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Now added to the Theatres at Risk register, Theatres Trust say they 'will seek to engage with all parties to find a viable and sustainable future solution to see the theatre reopened for the city'.

Liverpool City Council’s cabinet member for culture, councillor Harry Doyle, believes being added to the register is a positive step. He explained: "We welcome the move to add The Epstein to the risk register as this offers renewed hope for this extraordinary space.

“In their role as intermediary, the Theatres Trust can now ensure there are productive conversations between the commercial landlord and any potential operators, with the shared ambition to find a positive solution which would see this important cultural asset reopening its doors.”

Other Merseyside theatres 'at risk'

The Garston Empire has been on the register since 2009, after being built in 1915 but only operating as a theatre for three years. Later used as a cinema and bingo hall, the building has been vacant for sixteen years and is currently up for sale. Planning permission is needed to demolish the venue, but the Theatres Trust are concerned that the building 'will be lost to commercial redevelopment'.

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The Garston Empire. Image: Rodhullandemu, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia CommonsThe Garston Empire. Image: Rodhullandemu, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
The Garston Empire. Image: Rodhullandemu, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Southport's Garrick Theatre was added to the Theatres at Risk Register in 2022 after Mecca Bingo announced it would not be reopening the venue. Opening in 1932, the theatre changed to a bingo hall in 1963 and remained in operation until the Covid-19 lockdowns on 2020. Theatres Trust say they believe it could operate as a theatre once more, however, in July 2023 the new owner submitted a planning application for a mixed-use development for the venue, including a hotel, gym/spa facility, bar and restaurant and residential units along with refurbishment of the auditorium for use as an events space. The outcome of these plans are yet be determined.

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