POOLE’S Lighthouse might not survive the summer unless it can access more cash.

The arts centre has run up a £350,000 shortfall in the first half of the year, with no firm news about when it can reopen.

And it has to decide within weeks whether it should call off this year’s pantomime.

The venue is seeking money from an Arts Council emergency fund and looking for other ways to raise funds.

Chief executive Elspeth McBain said: “We’re a cash business and we earn 81 per cent of our income through ticketing, bars and cafe income.

“And with no income for six months at the minimum, it puts us in rather a challenging position when we have a large building and facilities to still maintain.

“Our expenditure has reduced significantly, thanks to the job retention scheme in particular, but we still have huge liabilities and it’s still costing us a huge amount to keep the building on in hibernation.”

Lighthouse has seen 721 events cancelled, rescheduled or postponed since entertainment venues were closed in March.

The venue – with two theatres, a concert hall, cinema and exhibition space – is estimated to generate £14million in economic benefit to the region each year.

The coronavirus crisis has already caused Nuffield Southampton Theatres to go into administration, placing the future of its two venues in doubt.

Lighthouse receives eight per cent of its funding from the Arts Council and 10 per cent from BCP Council. Local authority support has reduced by half in the past decade.

Bournemouth Echo:

Ms McBain said: “Even if we can open in the summer or September, if there are social distancing requirements, it just isn’t financially viable. We would be reducing our capacity to about 20 per cent – and that’s if the audience have the confidence to return.

“Our reserves will have been finished by July. We’re looking to government to support the sector and to help us.”

She said her current “biggest dilemma” was whether to go ahead with this year’s panto, Beauty and the Beast, which costs around £250,000. “It’s often the first cultural experience for young children,” she said.

Lighthouse has had to issue 24,000 refunds, but she said ticket holders had been “incredibly supportive”, with many willing to exchange their tickets for credit towards future events.

“Also, people have been generous in donating the value of their tickets to us. That’s been an absolute life-saver,” she added.