Epstein Theatre

Built above a music shop this is an unusual and intimate theatre that has long-served the people of Liverpool.

Auditorium of historic theatre, Epstein Theatre
85 Hanover Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1 3DY
Risk Rating
6 (Community Rating: 3, Star Value: 1, Risk Factor: 2)
Local Authority
Liverpool City Council
Revolve Property (long term lease from council) formerly D W Ramsey
Date of Construction


Constructed in 1913, the Epstein Theatre was originally conceived as a concert hall (the Crane Hall) for instrumental recitals for the music shop it was built above. The upper levels of the five-storey Crane Building contained associated offices. The hall was soon converted into a theatre through expansion and construction of a flytower and stage within a neighbouring building.

It is a handsome stone and brick building with a canted corner bay announcing the theatre entrance. Internally, the theatre is decorated with mahogany panels and plaster detail. The intimate auditorium is almost square, with a flat panelled ceiling with centre cluster of lights. The upper parts of the wall are decorated with fluted Ionic pilasters, modillioned cornices and busts of famous composers in wreaths. Lower parts are panelled in mahogany with a Greek key frieze. There is a small balcony with panelled front. Urn decorations above the doors are echoed in the square proscenium decoration at the sides.

The building came under threat of closure in the 1960s but was bought by the Liverpool Corporation, who wished to save it for the people of Liverpool.

Following a refurbishment, the venue reopened as the Neptune Theatre and remained operating as such until closure in 2005 for works to address health and safety issues. There followed an extended period of closure, the renamed Epstein Theatre finally reopening in 2011 following a £1m refurbishment.

The entire building (now known as Hanover House) is owned by the council and leased to a commercial property landlord. The council had sub-leased the theatre back from them for a period of 12 years. The theatre has most recently been operated by Epstein Entertainments Ltd who was awarded the operating contract in October 2021 on an 18-month term ending in March 23, corresponding to the end of the theatre lease.

Auditorium of Epstein Theatre, viewed from the side of the stalls, showing rows of red seats, in contrast with the dark green, cream and gold walls

Why is this theatre at risk?

The theatre was added to the Theatres at Risk Register in 2024

Epstein Entertainments Ltd, the last operator, was awarded the contract to operate the theatre in October 2021. The management agreement saw the council covering a proportion of the rent, service charge, utilities and maintenance work for the duration of the 18-month management agreement.

In June 2023, it was announced that Liverpool City Council was unable to renew the lease for the theatre and subsequently the associated management agreement with the incumbent theatre operator. Direct negotiations by the theatre operator with the building landlord, who required a minimum 5-year lease, failed to reach a workable solution and the theatre closed at the end of the same month.

Theatre potential

The Epstein had been in active operation until June 2023. It provided a theatre of a different scale to most of the other City Centre venues and filled the demand for a programme of more populist community/amateur work supplemented by music/comedy.

The announcement of the theatre’s closure saw much community support for the venue.  

There is a demand for the reopening of the theatre, although, it is acknowledged that this would require some subsidy either through rent relief and / or revenue funding

Current situation

The theatre closed on 30 June 2023. Epstein Entertainment Ltd would like to find a solution to reopening the theatre and continuing its popular programme.

The offices located on the levels above the theatre are also currently disused and their vacancy causes further vulnerability for the building. The landlord would be keen to see both offices and theatre spaces leased, however there are dilapidations due from the previous lease of the theatre that require action prior to a new lease term. Discussions regarding dilapidations are on-going between the council and the landlord.

Theatres Trust will seek to engage with all parties to find a viable and sustainable future solution to see the theatre reopened for the city.

Images credits: Ian Grundy