Beds, Herts & Bucks

Coronavirus: Alban Arena 'remains open until advised otherwise'

Alban Arena Image copyright Google
Image caption The Alban Arena remains open, despite new social distancing policies, but is taking "extra precautions"

A theatre venue is staying open "until advised otherwise", despite criticism it is risking people's health during the coronavirus epidemic.

The Alban Arena in St Albans, Hertfordshire, said it "currently remains open", despite social distancing policies, but was taking "extra precautions".

It said producers decided if shows went on and many were being rescheduled.

The venue has been accused on social media of "putting money before health".

The Arena, which opened in 1968, seats 856 but has a standing capacity of up to 1,400.

On Monday, the government advised avoiding pubs, restaurants, theatres and cinemas.

In a Facebook post, the council-owned Arena, run by leisure contractor 1Life, said: "We are open for business but taking extra precautions to ensure the health and safety of our staff and customers."

Before Wednesday's performance of Aida by the Russian State Opera, it said the production was going ahead and it was "unable to offer refunds".

One poster replied: "I'm positive when we get through this crisis your business will suffer irreversibly. We will not forget how you put money ahead of our health."

Another, due to attend the opera, said: "None of us are risking our health due to irresponsible behaviour and greed of putting staff (which are mostly volunteers) and audience at risk."

But actor and theatre patron Bob Golding said: "Some pubs and venues are remaining open for political reasons to help their staff. Please bear a thought and be kind. I'm sure theatre will find another way of reaching you soon."

The venue said that while the venue was "open", it had no further events scheduled "for the foreseeable future".

Many were being rescheduled, but if companies wanted to perform it must accommodate them and was contractually obliged not to give refunds.

"The Alban Arena currently remains open albeit with audience capacities limited," a statement said.

"We have increased our deep-cleaning measures and are imposing adequate spacing between audience members to adhere to social distancing recommendations.

"There has been no government instruction to enforce closures of theatres at this stage and we will continue remain open until advised otherwise by either the government or local authority."

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