York & North Yorkshire

Harrogate's Royal Hall 'costing £1,000 a day'

The future of a multi-million pound refurbished theatre is under debate after it emerged it was costing £1,000 a day to run and had few bookings.

The refurbishment of Harrogate's Royal Hall saw it shortlisted for a prestigious design award in 2008.

But now the Conservative administration at the council wants to review the costs of the theatre.

The Royal Hall Restoration Trust said it was not being marketed effectively.

The grade II listed building closed in 2002 because of structural problems but had undergone a £12m transformation.

But the running costs of the building have been determined as £1,000 per day and now the borough council wants to find ways of mitigating the burden on the authority.

Don McKenzie, the Conservative leader of the council said it was a matter that needed addressing.

Variety of options

He said: "It is costing us about £1,000 a day but there were only 57 bookings last year for the Royal Hall, so you can work it out for yourself.

"With only 57 booking the cost of preparing for them and tidying up afterwards, we're not making any money for the Royal Hall on that basis."

Options being considered included closing the venue, but that was "not supported" a report to councillors said.

Other options councillors will consider next week are to continue to manage the venue; see it managed by an external operator or lease it to an external operator.

Making money

But Russell Davidson, the chairman of the Royal Hall Restoration Trust said the venue had never made money and should be properly marketed.

He said: "It needs properly promoting.

"We had a visit from Dame Jenny Abramsky, the chairwoman of the Lottery Heritage Fund and she was quiet firmly of the view the place will make money if it's properly promoted.

"She is involved through her role with the Heritage Lottery Fund with a number of theatres around the country.

"Those other theatres, where they have proper promoters have very few dark nights."

The Prince of Wales, who is patron of the Royal Hall Restoration Trust, opened the newly restored historic theatre in 2008.

More on this story

Around the BBC