THE curtain is to fall on the Belltable Arts Centre early in January with the lay-off of five staff, the Limerick Leader can reveal.
Staff were given the news shortly before Christmas that the arts centre was to “temporarily close” on January 7, with the board of the Belltable proposing “a re-structuring plan” that would set the venue on a “sustainable path for the future”.
The news of the venue’s closure after nearly 32 years in operation does not affect the CentreStage panto currently running in the theatre.
A statement released to the Leader confirmed that closure and staff layoffs.
The Chimes cafe in the basement of the O’Connell Street theatre is to remain open and will trade as normal.
“A review of the Belltable’s artistic policy has been undertaken through a wide consultation process and a new vision for the venue will be incorporated into the proposed re-structuring plan,” said the statement.
“The seasonal closure of the Belltable - during a normally quiet period for arts venues - provides an opportunity to prepare a re-structuring plan which sets the Belltable on a sustainable path for the future and plan for its role during Limerick’s year as National City of Culture in 2014.”
Acting chairman of the board, Patricia Byrne, said that the closure would allow the venue some “breathing space”.
“Now it is kind of a breathing space to look at it, restructure it, put together a plan, make sure that it is well funded and make sure that it is there for the City of Culture in a strong way in about a year’s time. That is the context around it (the decision),” she said.
“The reason we are closing is to allow the chance, we need to re-structure and put a good strong plan in place for the future and it is better to spend the time doing that, particularly with the City of Culture coming in 2014.”
Funding applications have been submitted to Limerick City Council and the Arts Council, who primarily fund the Belltable’s operation.
However, declining levels of funding and revenues and large remaining capital debts from the extensive remodelling of the theatre - which re-opened in 2011 - have left the Belltable in a difficult position, this newspaper understands.
Six figures debts have accrued, while accountants have been appointed to manage the company’s debt problems.
One local theatre company claimed not to have been paid by the Belltable for a recent show, but that matter has since been resolved.