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Epstein theatre to close again


Liverpool's Epstein Theatre - set to close at the end of the month. Pic: David Munn
Liverpool's Epstein Theatre - set to close at the end of the month. Pic: David Munn

Liverpool’s historic Epstein Theatre is set to close on June 30 – less than two years after reopening.

The Grade II-listed, 380 seat Liverpool institution is based within the listed Hanover House in the city centre and has been open as a performance space since 1913. In 2011 the theatre reopened as the Epstein, named after Beatles manager Brian Epstein, following a £1.2m refurbishment.

All productions up to June 30 will go ahead as planned and the theatre management is hoping to transfer some shows after June 30 to other local venues. Automatic refunds will go to ticket-holders whose shows are cancelled.

Liverpool City Council, which owns the freehold of the building in which the theatre stands, says it can't afford to contribute its current £100,000 a year to keep the theatre in operation. It also turned down a request to reduce this to £50,000 a year for five years.

Epstein Entertainments Ltd won the contract to operate the Epstein on behalf of the council in October 2018, but a legal problem and the pandemic meant the theatre didn't reopen until December 2021. The venue runs a popular programme of small-scale shows and events, and the company has been trading profitably during its lease period, which has now come to an end.

Epstein Entertainments has been unable to come to terms for a new lease with the commercial landlord, who requires a five-year term, and hasn't been able to come up with alternative funding.

Artistic and operations director Chantelle Nolan said: “I'm truly heartbroken that Epstein Entertainments is having to vacate this beautiful theatre. Since reopening the theatre in December 2021 we have worked tirelessly to make the business a success, but unfortunately with the costs we are now facing, it’s become an impossible task.

“The work required to maintain the theatre to HSE standards and comply with legal requirements has become a severe drain on the company’s finances. Without Liverpool City Council’s support it's impossible to make it a financial success. We hope the people of Liverpool appreciate that we have done everything within our power to keep the venue open. I hope one day it will reopen again as a theatre space.”

Artistic and communications director Bill Elms added: “This closure is a huge loss for the Liverpool City Region. We have worked tirelessly and turned the venue round to playing to over 80 per cent capacity houses, but sadly it's just not enough."

“It’s heartbreaking that the theatre is forced to close when there are such positive signs of growth and stability. If it wasn't for the three-year delay after winning the tender, I am certain we wouldn't be in this dreadful position right now."

In the 18 months since the Epstein reopened, it has hosted almost 150 productions and has welcomed 76,000 people through its doors. The theatre also created 40 jobs


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