Plans have been submitted for a new 1,500 capacity performance venue in Coventry. It will be the new home for the Coventry Empire music venue, which is currently located in the former Paris Cinema.
Featuring both a main stage and smaller performance space, with a total capacity ranging from 1,250 to 1,500, the venue will host events including live music, comedy and theatre. It will also contain rehearsal space.
The proposed site was originally built as the ABC Cinema in 1973, replacing the former Empire Theatre, which was demolished to make space. Its most recent use was as a sports shop.
A planning application for a change of use for the vacant site from retail to provide a multi-use events venue has been submitted to Coventry City Council by the operators of the Coventry Empire.
Coventry Empire director Phil Rooney told The Stage: “We started Empire on Gosford Street purely for a love of live music – I and other people were a little bit sick of travelling to Nottingham, Leicester, Birmingham or Derby to watch gigs.
“I sat down with my good friend Tom Clarke – who is in the band The Enemy – and we decided let’s do this. Tom was on board from the very early days.
“When we realised the old venue had a very limited life because of the length of the lease, I had a moment when I thought: ‘Do I continue with this or do I throw the towel in and do something else?’ And I looked back at the past two years and thought: ‘This is too good to give up.’”
He added: “Coventry doesn’t have many venues for live music – we are the only recognised touring venue for national artists.”
The Theatres Trust has supported the planning proposal in a letter responding to the planning application.
Planning adviser Tom Clarke said: “The Empire’s history as a theatre extended back to 1856 and it had been a significant venue with three tiers of seating and more than 1,500 seats. It was re-equipped for dedicated cinema use after the Second World War, having sustained some war damage.
“Therefore the principle of an events venue is to be welcomed as it reverts the building back to a cultural purpose as originally intended, and specifically the original ‘Empire’ name would return.”
Clarke added: “Although this is in effect a re-provision of an existing facility, relocation enables to increase capacity by 350-600, which will help support and attract a broader range of shows and functions.
"Its more central location will also improve overall accessibility and help enhance the overall vitality of the designated city centre."
The venue was originally set to open in July this year. This has been postponed until at least September due to the coronavirus pandemic.