Pop-up theatres are becoming an increasing trend in the arts world, offering a flexible and cost-effective alternative to traditional venues. A wide variety of locations are now being used, from urban gardens to disused retail space. They are a great method of putting on your production without the commitment of a long team lease and with limited risk to yourself and your Landlord. However, there are several legal issues to consider before taking on your pop-up venue and we look at some of these below
To Lease or not to Lease “that is the question”
It is likely that your Landlord will require you to sign a formal lease which will regulate how you can operate in your temporary space; for example, it will control any alterations you make to the premises, outline your repairing obligations, state your rent and how this will be paid and stipulate how your agreement can be ended.
The repairing obligation is particularly important as you will not want your temporary tenancy of the venue to be used by the landlord to fund the cost of any repairs your landlord should be carrying out to their premises. You need to ensure that you will not be obliged to leave the property in a better condition than when you took up occupation so you should consider negotiating a “schedule of condition” with your Landlord. This is a photographs schedule, which will be appended to the back of your lease and evidences the condition of the property when you commence occupation. This should be the condition in which you will be expected to leave the property when you vacate.
The attraction of pop-up theatres is their flexibility and you should ensure that your lease reflects this. You will want to include an option to break the lease after a specific period of time, so that if the venture is not proving viable you will able to end your commitment (“if it were done ‘tis done then ‘twere well if it were done quickly”) Your Landlord may also require this If the theatre is occupying premises that the landlord wants to use for another use or if the use as a theatre is adversely affecting its other premises in the area.
If the proposed lease is for longer than six months, it is also likely that your landlord will require your agreement to be contracted outside the Landlord & Tenant Act 1954. This means that when the term of your lease expires that you will not automatically be entitled to a renewal of the lease.
There are several other questions to ask your Landlord; for example, is there a Superior Landlord who sits above your current Landlord? If this is the case, their consent will most likely be required to your lease which could delay the prompt signing of the agreement. Their consent may also be required to any alterations you need to make to accommodate your theatre.
There may also be planning considerations if there change of use implications. Theatres fall under Sui Generis ( meaning that they do not fall within a specific Use Class) although spaces under 150 sqm may be accepted by the local council as a temporary flexible change of use so your venture is likely to need a specific consent to use as a theatre from the Local Authority.
Remember that if you want to be able to allow the audience to enjoy an alcoholic beverage during the performance (“Good wine is a good familiar creature, if it be well used well”) then it will need to have a premises licence in place before it does so. You can apply for from your local authority.
There are undoubtedly many advantages to pop-ups, which enable you to showcase your production in an innovative manner and in an exciting space, but it can be a confusing area of the law and for this reason it is advisable to take legal advice before embarking on your exciting venture and remember to be “be bright and jovial among your guests tonight”!