With news that the Epstein Theatre is to close, here’s some frequently asked questions which should help explain the situation.
Who owns the Epstein Theatre?
Liverpool City Council owns the building (Hanover House), in which the theatre is situated.
However, in 2011 the Council signed a 135-year lease on the building to a Mr David William Ramsey. His two sons have since taken over the role of landlord.
After receiving an initial £500,000 payment for this deal, the Council annually receives a peppercorn rent.
At the same time the Council also signed a 12-year sub-lease for the theatre, which expired on 30 March 2023.
Does the Council run the Theatre?
No. The Council entered into a management agreement for the theatre in July 2021 with a private operator, Epstein Entertainments Ltd. This deal was to run alongside the lease, and so expired on 30 March 2023.
Both the operator and the landlord were informed the Council would not be renewing its lease after that date, as the deal did not provide best value for the tax payer.
So why didn’t the Theatre close in March?
The Council granted a temporary three month extension, ending on 30 June 2023, to support Epstein Entertainments Ltd in its attempts to negotiate a new lease with the landlord.
This unfortunately did not materialise.
But the Council funds the Theatre?
Not quite. The Council contributes to maintenance and service charges. In total the cost amounts to more than £100,000 a year. The Council also invested £1.2m to restore the theatre in 2011.
Can’t the Council fund the theatre operator, like other cultural organisations?
Epstein Entertainments Ltd is a private commercial operator so is not eligible for cultural funding. It would be able to apply if it was a registered charity, or a Community Interest Company.
Why did the Council not agree to a new five year deal?
Epstein Entertainments Ltd requested that the Council guarantee a further five years of financial support at a cost of £50,000 per year, plus utility costs.
Utility costs amount to business rates, gas, water and electricity of which the costs of these have not yet been determined.
Total costs are forecast up to £500,000 in additional expenditure. This is money the Council cannot justify spending given the budget pressures it is facing to support other front line services.