Redundancies at the Customs House

Published: 7 September 2020
Reporter: Peter Lathan

The Customs House
The Customs House interior

South Shields’ Customs House has announced 27 redundancies, 9 full-time posts and 18 part-time. 18 staff have been retained.

“It is an incredibly difficult decision to have so many staff leave The Customs House,” Executive Director Ray Spencer said.

“We have tried hard to trade but the current social distancing guidelines which reduce our opportunities to earn income, which represents 92% of our turnover, our lack of reserves, together with the constant threat of local lockdown and/or a second wave makes it impossible for the trust to support our current level of staff beyond the end of furlough.

“We sincerely wish our colleagues well in these incredibly difficult times.”

The venue reopened last month with the cinema and restaurant functioning on reduced capacities. The cinema's capacity reduced from 140 to a maximum of 42 and the restaurant's from 70 to a maximum of 42.

The theatre’s first performance back was its Thank You Variety Show, which was free to NHS and key workers, on 28 August. This was followed by Arbuthnot Goes Back to School and Jason Cook’s Comedy Club last week.

Theatre audiences are reduced from a capacity of 439 to between 102 and 172, depending on bubble sizes.

“The whole sector continues to suffer,” Spencer added. “Our survey of 1,400 regular users clearly showed that until a vaccine is found, audiences will be hesitant to return to cinema and theatre in pre-COVID numbers and it will be a long road to recovery.”

A small number of events programmed throughout the rest of the year will go ahead, with the rest of the shows being transferred to 2021.

The venue, a charity, is asking its supporters for a donation to help it through this difficult time.