Published: 20:16, 10 September 2020
| Updated: 20:17, 10 September 2020
Audiences will return to a theatre next month as it finally opens it doors following the Covid-19 lockdown.
The Assembly Hall Theatre in Tunbridge Wells is set to be among the first theatrical venues in the country to reopen when it welcomes back crowds from October 17.
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) says measures will be put in place to ensure visitors are able to enjoy performances safely while following government guidelines on social distancing.
Theatre staff are currently furloughed and will be returning to work in a phased manner from this week in order to prepare the venue for reopening and to deliver the town's annual ice rink.
Theatre director JJ Almond said: "It is hugely exciting to be able to give people good news about the theatre.
"It will be different but I am confident that audiences will have a great experience.
"We will announce the new programme from September 21 but I can give a hint here and say we have events with local partners and household names in the line up, and a new residency to announce."
"We're taking another very important step in support of the local economy..."
New safety measures in the theatre are expected to include reduced capacity in the auditorium, with a maximum of 350 pre-booked seats for each performance.
All ticket sales will be online, and while cash sales at the bar will not be possible, drinks can be pre-ordered.
Cllr Jane March, deputy leader of the council, said: "By reopening the theatre we're taking another very important step in support of the local economy.
"In normal times the theatre brings around 100,000 people to the town each year who all have a positive impact on local business. Obviously audience numbers won't be anywhere near this but there will still be a recovery boost for the local economy
"It will cost us money to reopen but we are confident that we can do this without increasing the subsidy the theatre receives as we expect to use some of our grant from the Local Government Support Fund."
The council-owned auditorium closed its doors in line with government guidance on March 17, and was used as a distribution depot for welfare parcels for shielded and vulnerable households during the lockdown in the spring.