Lincoln Drill Hall has warned it could close if council leaders agree to withdraw funding next week, despite a petition of more than 4,500 signatures.
City of Lincoln Council’s executive members are being recommended to consider not renewing their funding of the venue due to the “lack of financial viability of the Drill Hall and the significant uncertainty in relation to the resilience of arts and culture venues”.
A report before members said the current business model of the venue, run by Lincoln Arts Trust Ltd, is “unsustainable” and the situation has been made “far worse” by the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, a Facebook post by the management said: “If the council decides to follow this path, and not renew the funding agreement, or even look to further reduce the grant, then the impact of this decision will have a profound effect on our future, almost certainly leading to the closure of the venue.”
The venue said it would remove the ability to apply for other funding streams and have a knock on effect to “thousands of young people who perform on our stage, hundreds of adults and children with disabilities who rely on the venue for the safe haven it provides”.
“It will affect artists and freelancers who will lose a source of income and drama graduates who want to make Lincoln their home to create exciting new work,” they said.
“It will affect our staff team who will lose their jobs having worked tirelessly and beyond what should be expected of them to continue our work.”
They add that the move could have a “wider financial impact on the city in the long term too” including an estimated £1.6m in economic impact every year from the venue’s activity.
Between 2017 up to March 31,2021, when the funding agreement is due to end, the council will have given the venue £837,309.
The report before councillors next week, however, says that even with this year’s funding and prior to the coronavirus pandemic the charity faced a shortfall of £130,000 – last year it raised £116,000 but included a £60,000 donation.
It warns that as restrictions are lifted, the venue would still only have an audience capacity of one third and faces “serious implications” as Christmas pantomime income is drastically reduced.
The Drill Hall confirmed no public programmes would begin until 2021. A majority of staff have been on furlough since April 1 and sales have dropped by 96%.
“An early draft of a proposed new business model was presented to city council officers… but this model still required the current council grant funding level to be maintained and officer views were that it was an ambitious model unlikely to achieve the income projected, due to the impact of COVID-19 continuing into 2021 and beyond,” said the report.
Councillors will be presented with three options including continuing the funding, undertaking negotiations with another provider or removing the funding from March.
It says a final cash injection would still give the venue six months to explore other opportunities.