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Future of the Apex to be debated by St Edmundsbury Borough Council

The future of the Apex, in Bury St Edmunds, will be considered by St Edmundsbury Borough Council on Monday.

Apex auditorium by Jerry Gilbert. (2644758)
Apex auditorium by Jerry Gilbert. (2644758)

The joint executive (cabinet) committee will discuss the Apex forward plan and decide how the venue’s future performance could be monitored.

Measures to help bring down the Apex operating costs – which are subsidised by the council – are included in the plan, with the venue saying it hopes to reduce its £570,780 2018/19 budgeted costs to £450,000 within three years.

When the Apex opened in 2010 its annual operating cost was £793,000. However, the plan says the drive to reduce cost ‘will not be done at the expense of the quality of what we do and how we do it’.

Income-raising proposals include:

- A new membership scheme

- Appointing a fund-raiser

- Establishing a Corporate Club

- Evaluation of capacity to see if an extra 200 people could be accommodated for standing gigs

- Investigating turning the Apex lounge upstairs into a space ‘giving more income generating opportunities’

The report estimates the introduction of booking fees on every ticket – which came into effect in April – could earn £100,000 annually by the end of the 2019/20 financial year. In 2017/18 the Apex sold more than 100,000 tickets, with box office sales income increasing from £1.2 million in 2014/15 to £2 million in 2017/18.

Meanwhile, it is suggested a proposed membership scheme, where customers pay £35 a year in return for priority booking and other benefits, could generate £8,750 from 250 members in its first year. If it grows by 250 members a year as projected, it could earn £43,750 by year five.

Councillor David Nettleton, who has long criticised the ‘loss-making venture’, was sceptical whether Forest Heath residents would be happy to subsidise the Apex when the joint West Suffolk Council is created and said the auditorium’s capacity of 700 ‘was always going to be a problem’.

He added: “The report brags about reducing the annual deficit from £793,000 in 2010 to an estimated £570,000 in 2019. That’s an average of £25,000 a year.

“At this rate it will be 2040 before the Apex breaks even – always assuming that the council wants to remove the subsidy and operate the venue debt free.”

The committee will also hear a proposal to commission an independent assessment of catering contracts at the Apex, Athenaeum, Abbey Gardens kiosk and Moyse’s Hall Museum, to see how catering might be procured and managed in the future.

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