Threatened public hall’s future impacted by coronavirus outbreak
PUBLISHED: 17:26 19 March 2020 | UPDATED: 17:27 19 March 2020
A public hall that had been saved from closure after an outpouring of community support has had to shut its doors due to fears of spreading coronavirus.
Trustees of the Rifle Hall, in Halesworth, announced last month that the building was to remain open at least until the end of March 2021 after its financial situation improved.
However, trustee Simon Weeks has now said the hall will close indefinitely due to warnings from the government over social gatherings.
Dr Weeks said: “We are doubly disappointed as so many people have got behind the campaign to save the hall.
“But we recognise it is no longer appropriate to be asking people to dip into their pockets when so many are facing such major uncertainties as a result of the pandemic.”
Halesworth’s Rifle Hall, in London Road, was built in 1792 and began life as a theatre before being converted into a military drill hall 70 years later.
Waveney District Council owned the building until 2011 when it handed over responsibility to the Rifle Hall Trust - who spent thousands on a refurbishment to make it a more attractive venue for the community.
Sadly, there was a downturn in bookings and with a projected shortfall of £2,000 a year, leading to fears the building could close this month.
The community rallied and enough interest was generated to ensure the hall could remain open for at least another year - but the trust was hit by another setback after the government recommended social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said in a press conference earlier this week that large gatherings should be avoided over concerns of spreading the virus, officially known as COVID-19.
Dr Weeks said trustees would now spend time making “sorely-needed” improvements to the building ahead of its reopening when the threat of the virus passes.
He added: “If this virus has blown over by the autumn, then we’ll be back open.
“We hope the enforced closure will prove to be temporary and we can restart our campaign to save the hall at some time in the future.”