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Proposals planned for Winchester Guildhall's commercial potential
WINCHESTER Guildhall could be set for major changes to increase its commercial potential.
A council independent scrutiny group recommended several changes to the Guildhall to make it a more attractive venue.
These included offering car parking for major events, opening the Wintonian Room bar to the public at lunch, advertising events with temporary banners and extending its catering service for three more years.
Cllr Jamie Scott, who chaired the group, said the future as a venue was bright after years of underperforming.
He said: “We looked back on some of the issues that caused the Guildhall to spiral and looked at moving it forward and analyse the clear market for conferences, weddings, parties and school and college proms.
“A lot of weddings are being booked there in the next year or two so things are looking up. We have had new markets such as boxing earlier this year and that is giving a real sparkle to the building.”
Council head of estates Kevin Warren added poor catering was a problem in the past decade but that new contractors had been hired with lots of expertise.
He added: “The bar has been successful and this year we have a surplus of 23,000 over our target, while catering is £7,000 above target. This is as a result of having staff are very adept and experienced who have been brought in from the private sector.”
The Guildhall is currently taking bookings two years in advance and Mr Warren revealed negotiations were ongoing with “a major promoter” over a darts tournament.
Cllr Robert Sanders raised concerns over repeating past mistakes and said he had heard similar claims before.
He said: “We have had four years of losses but you are saying we have the right staff now and that is what we heard four years ago.”
But Cllr Scott said the ISG had thoroughly investigated the problems.
He said: “We grilled officers and were satisfied that the ship has been turned around and is going in the right direction.”
The recommendations will now go to Cabinet for approval.
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