Preston's Guild Hall is now a '˜booming business'
When Simon Rigby took Preston Guild Hall off the city council's hands in 2014 he saved them Â£1.5m a year.
Now, just over two years later, the famous venue is on course to break even.
A record pantomime season has capped off a marvellous 2016 for the Guild Hall - with 2017 promising to be even better.
“I am absolutely determined that the Guild Hall stands on its own feet,” he said. “And at this moment we are right at that tipping point.
“When we took the place on the council was subsidising it to the tune of £1.5m a year. At the start it was costing us £150,000 a month to run.
“But in this calendar year it will break even. And when LeVeL (bowling alley and live entertainment venue) comes on-line we are very hopeful the Guild Hall will start to make a proper contribution to our business.”
Mr Rigby’s Villa Group has transformed the complex, starting with the opening of the Leaf and Bean cafe in October 2014 and Mundo Tapas two months later.
The Review cocktail bar opened in December 2015, the Villa Italian restaurant followed in October 2016 and the LiVe music venue opened its doors in December. The company also hopes to one day open a casino in the complex.
“The Guild Hall is now a booming entertainment business,” he said. “I never felt the Guild Hall was an act of philantropy, I always believed that it was commercially viable. OK it’s taken us two years, but I’m happy to be able to prove that to myself and the wider market.
“The city council needed someone with very broad shoulders to take on the Guild Hall. There was never any certainty it could be commercially viable. But to me Preston becoming a city and then celebrating by boarding up the Guild Hall just didn’t make sense.
“I’m determined to keep the Guild Hall open. That’s what I signed up to do and that’s what I will do.”