Portsmouth Guildhall operations manager's blog reveals possible '500 capacity' venue with social distancing

PLANNING is underway for a ‘number of reopening scenarios’ at Portsmouth Guildhall, the venue has said.

Thursday, 18th June 2020, 4:30 pm
Updated Monday, 23rd November 2020, 6:14 pm

Whether live theatre, music or major events, the city centre has been keeping people entertained for generations.

Arts venues are keen to reopen again when safe and have been planning how to abide by any rules imposed.

It comes as Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre said it will stay shut until December.

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Doubts have been raised about the viability of Portsmouth Guildhall reopening with a severely reduced capacity. Picture: Sarah Standing

In Portsmouth, a Guildhall spokeswoman said they are ‘planning behind the scenes for a number of reopening scenarios’ but are not in a position to put a date on this.

A personal blog by the venue’s head of operations, Rachel Maryan, has said its capacity could be reduced to just 500 from 2,000.

Rachel stated: ‘When it opens its doors, a 2,000 seated capacity venue such as the Guildhall will probably be expected to have that reduced to 500.

‘A promoter will not be able to afford to lose 1,500 ticket sales.’

The Portsmouth Guildhall Trusts chief executive, Andy Grays, believes restoring public confidence will be vital for venues to successfully reopen Picture: Sarah Standing (131173-1734)

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This in turn would have a knock-on effect on drinks sales, she said.

She added: ‘The Guildhall can not afford to lose 1,500 peoples’ secondary spend.’

After 26 years working in the leisure industry, Rachel has warned the city’s entertainment sector may not survive a continued period of closure.

She added: ‘A restaurant or bar will probably have to open with a third of normal capacity but won’t be able to sustain that revenue level.

‘A nightclub won’t be able to adopt the social distancing measure enforced upon them.

‘Some venues, bars and clubs may have played their last gig or served their last pina colada unless someone steps in and gives a tangible solution for our survival long term.’

Rachel also added she feared a permanent loss of jobs if venues were unable to fully open.

At the crux of the issue is the current two metre social distancing which the government has said is currently under review.

However, for chief executive of the Guildhall Trust, Andy Grays, the restoration of public confidence is equally important.

Speaking in The News recently, Andy said: ‘As we consider how the public might regain confidence in visiting our theatres, music venues, galleries and museums, we must create a blueprint which is universally accepted as the norm until a vaccine is found.’

Rachel feels the entertainment industry will be needed more than ever when the pandemic eventually subsides.

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