Epstein Theatre closure leaves staff ‘heartbroken’

News that the Epstein Theatre in Liverpool is to close its doors for good leaves artistic director Bill Elms and his team ‘heartbroken’. Tony McDonough reports

Epstein Theatre
The Epstein Theatre in Hanover Street in Liverpool is to close for good


Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre is to close its doors for good after operator Epstein Entertainments was unable to secure financial support from Liverpool City Council.

Artistic director Bill Elms, who is also the organiser of the Liverpool Theatre Festival, said he and the team at the operator, Epstein Entertainments, were “heartbroken” at the decision which was announced on Friday morning.

Writing on his Facebook page, Bill said: “It’s heartbreaking that the theatre is forced to close when there’s such positive signs of growth and stability, but without the city’s financial support the costs are unworkable.”

Originally opened as Crane’s Music Hall in 1913, the Epstein in Hanover Street was later known as the Neptune Theatre. In the late 1990s the 380-seat venue was renamed in honour of the former manager of The Beatles, the late Brian Epstein.

It has been threatened with closure several times over the years. In May 2011 it reopened following a £1.2m refurbishment. Epstein Entertainments was awarded the contract to operate the Epstein Theatre on behalf of Liverpool City Council in October 2018.

According to the statement from Epstein Entertainments the council leases the building to a commercial property landlord and then subleases the Epstein Theatre back from them.

Since the 1960s, the council has always financially supported and subsidised the theatre. Currently this figure is an excess of £100,000 per year. However, given the council’s own precarious financial position this is no longer possible.

Epstein Entertainments had asked the council to continue its support for the theatre at £50,000 a year for the next five years. But this request was turned down.

The statement added: “Due to unprecedented financial pressures on the council’s budget, the historic financial deal between the two parties is unsustainable, hence the council’s decision not to renew or extend the current lease or to offer any further financial support of the operators of the theatre.

“Due to all the legalities and lengthy discussions with Liverpool City Council to reach an acceptable management agreement for both parties, and the subsequent COVID pandemic closure of the theatre, Epstein Entertainments did not occupy the theatre until October 2021.

“In the management agreement, the council covered a portion of the rent, service charge, utilities and maintenance work up to this date.”

Liverpool City Council said cutting off the support was “not an easy decision”. The Epstein will now close its doors for good on June 28. The final performance will be Laura Belbin.

A spokesperson for Liverpool City Council said: “It was decided in 2021 that the cost of more than £100,000 a year in financial support for the Epstein Theatre was unsustainable.

“After careful consideration, both the landlord and theatre operator were informed that the Council would be unable to continue this beyond 2023.

“That was not an easy decision. The Council is a huge supporter of the city’s cultural sector and continues to annually invest millions of pounds supporting dozens of venues and organisations, but that support needs to deliver value for money for the taxpayer.


Epstein Theatre
Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre first opened its doors in 1913
Bill Elms
Theatre director and producer Bill Elms. Picture by Wesley Storey


“It was hoped that given both the operator and landlord had had more than 18 months to negotiate a new lease arrangement, an amicable solution would be found, between the two parties. It is a huge shame that has not materialised.”

Bill Elams added: “This has to be one of the most stressful periods we have had to deal with, I am so proud of what all the staff have achieved, getting the venue back on its feet after a very difficult period and now playing to 80% houses and with an excellent full programme.

“We are all completely heartbroken, to say the least. This is a huge shock and loss for our city, for the writers, creatives, producers and our audiences.

READ MORE: Liverpool Theatre Festival unveils family programme

READ MORE: Businesses to create new Liverpool art festival

“This venue fills an essential gap as a mid-scale receiving house, there is no other city centre venue that can take the shows we take, so the city loses out.

“The venue comes with its complications, its not just rent, service charge and utilities, but huge maintenance and essential upgrades required. Any venue of this size and nature needs financial support.

“So its goodbye for now to our unique, historic, listed cultural gem. Thanks to everyone for the magical memories.”

You might also like More from author

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Username field is empty.