Jobs cut expected at Customs House but bosses hope limited reopening will reduce the loses

The boss of leading South Tyneside arts venue The Customs House has confirmed job cuts are almost inevitable in the wake of coronavirus lockdown - but time will tell how many.
The Customs HouseThe Customs House
The Customs House

Ray Spencer MBE said the level of likely redundancies would depend on how strong its finances kick back into place following recent limited reopening.

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That has now been completed, but the level of any cuts to its 70-strong workforce will not be finalised until its new financial position is known at the end of September.

Customs House boss Ray SpencerCustoms House boss Ray Spencer
Customs House boss Ray Spencer

Executive director Mr Spencer said the stronger its financial recovery over the next month, the more limited any cuts would be.

But he admitted: “I suspect there will be job losses, it’s just about the level. The big thing is that we’re really trying to mitigate it.

“We are trying to reopen as best we can and are looking to see if the economics add up, going forward.

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“We are looking to see if we can operate with reduced levels and can pay for staff and how many.

“Our ability to make money is really challenging. It’s not just the performances, we are not making money on things like beer, wine and meals.”

He added: “A lot of other venues just closed their doors and said they wouldn’t reopen until the spring of 2021.

“We are trialling the reopening of the cinema and the restaurant and the building to see how many people are coming through, to see the economics.

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“We want to find out if that generates enough to keep people employed. We don’t know the outcome about how much money we will get through the doors.

“We are attempting to mitigate any job losses by attempting to do some trading.”

The venue’s cinema is now open for two showings a day, and its restaurant is also serving in a safe, socially distanced environment.

Mr Spencer said a live performance last week for NHS and key workers had been a financial success, due to the generosity of sponsor Colmans.

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