The Leadmill: Rally outside Sheffield Town Hall ahead of meeting about iconic music venue

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A rally is being held in Sheffield city centre today as part of the ‘Save The Leadmill’ campaign.

It began outside the Town Hall at 9am and is said to involve ‘music enthusiasts, local residents, and cultural advocates in a resounding show of unity’.

The rally has been organised ahead of a council meeting due to take place at 10am, where an application from the landlord of The Leadmill music venue for a ‘shadow licence’ will be discussed.

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It has been over a year since the venue's longstanding tenants were told to vacate by building’s new owners The Electric Group, in what the current tenants have repeatedly called a “hostile takeover”.

The row over the future of The Leadmill in Sheffield rumbles on and there is a council meeting today at Sheffield Town HallThe row over the future of The Leadmill in Sheffield rumbles on and there is a council meeting today at Sheffield Town Hall
The row over the future of The Leadmill in Sheffield rumbles on and there is a council meeting today at Sheffield Town Hall

Electric Group bought the iconic building in 2017 and issued an eviction order last year. It expected to take over when a 20-year lease expired in March of this year. But the famous city centre club continues to operate as normal, with acts booked until late 2024.

While the new owners maintain they only intend to invest in the venue, current tenant Phil Mills says it is a “hostile takeover” which puts part of the city’s heritage and culture at risk.

The Electric Group says it is tired of “this campaign to mislead the public”.

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Landlord Dominic Madden told The Star ahead of the rally: “I’m not a property developer or a ‘shadowy’ London investor coming to ruin and destroy an arts institution.

“I suspect behind all the high-minded rhetoric he’s angry that his lease is coming to an end, angry that his cash-cow is being stopped and kicking himself that he didn’t buy the Freehold at auction when he had the opportunity.

“Mr Mills' campaign has tried to worry people in Sheffield and Yorkshire, leading to speculation on social media that ‘London folk’ are going to ignore the roots of The Leadmill and it will be a high street ‘nightclub’.

“I have said repeatedly that I have bought the Leadmill to protect it and I will.”

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A spokesperson for The Leadmill said: “We’re working to Save The Leadmill, protect our city’s heritage, and defend our culture, but on 18th September, the decision about this hostile takeover will go to a public hearing, and we need you there — we must show the strength of support for our campaign.”

He refused and said: “The Leadmill is an iconic venue that has played host to brilliant gigs and club nights and has supported Sheffield’s best musical talent.

“As Leader of the Council and as a Sheffield resident, I know how loved The Leadmill is by many people and I understand the strength of feeling. The council is a champion of our cultural industries and nighttime economy but we cannot directly intervene in the legal process taking place between The Leadmill’s landlord and tenant. The council does not own the building but over the last year, we have engaged with both parties and remain willing to do so. However, we must balance this with allowing the normal licensing processes to happen as they usually would.”

What is a shadow licence?

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Premises at which entertainment and certain other activities, including the sale of alcohol, are provided are required to be licensed under the Licensing Act 2003. A premises licence is valid for the life of the business supplying alcohol and/or regulated entertainment.

The term ‘shadow licence’ is often used to describe a premises licence which is granted to a second party when one is already in place for a venue. A ‘shadow licence’ does not impact the terms of the original premises licence; it would allow the second party to run the venue under that ‘shadow licence’ if the original premises licence were to be revoked or surrendered.

If a ‘shadow licence’ is granted, the venue will remain open and continue to operate under its usual licence conditions. It would mean that the owners of the building would be able to operate the venue under the conditions of their ‘shadow licence’ if anything were to happen to the current premises licence.

A ‘shadow licence’ may be granted where a licence is already in place for a premises. It is common for a ‘shadow licence’ to be sought when a venue is operated by a tenant who holds the premises licence. The landlord may wish to apply for a ‘shadow licence’ for the premises in order to safeguard the venue in the event of the tenant’s licence being revoked, surrendered or lapsing. The ‘shadow licence’ ensures a premise remains licensed and can continue operating.

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