The Leadmill: Landlord says it stepped in to save famous Sheffield music venue from becoming flats

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The Leadmill’s landlord has claimed it stepped in to save the famous Sheffield music venue from being turned into flats.

The Electric Group, which owns the building on Leadmill Road, in Sheffield city centre, spoke out as the battle for the iconic nightclub’s future heats up.

The Leadmill this week again appealed for help to ‘save’ the venue, after the landlord applied to Sheffield City Council for a premises licence which would allow it to run the club, as first reported by The Star. The operators called on people to object to the licensing application ahead of the May 24 deadline.

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Why has The Leadmill asked people to object to licensing application?

The landlord of The Leadmill has spoken out as the battle for the future of the famous Sheffield music venue hots up, with the current operators urging people to object to a licensing application by the building's ownersThe landlord of The Leadmill has spoken out as the battle for the future of the famous Sheffield music venue hots up, with the current operators urging people to object to a licensing application by the building's owners
The landlord of The Leadmill has spoken out as the battle for the future of the famous Sheffield music venue hots up, with the current operators urging people to object to a licensing application by the building's owners

In a statement on its Facebook page, The Leadmill said: “As many of you are aware, our landlords have issued The Leadmill with an eviction notice in order to operate from this location themselves. If they are successful, this would result in The Leadmill ceasing to exist after 43 years.

“Our landlords have recently moved forward with their plans to evict The Leadmill by applying for their own premises licence. We are asking for your help in objecting to their licence application before Wednesday 24th May.”

Dominic Madden, CEO of Electric Group, which already runs the Electric Brixton, SWX Bristol and NX Newcastle music venues, has now broken his long silence to respond to The Leadmill’s latest claims.

In a statement, he said: “We have owned the Leadmill premises since 2017. With the current lease coming to an end, Electric Group has applied for a licence application as part of the transition process. As we have always maintained, we intend to continue operating the space as a music venue, focussing on a diverse mix of gigs, club nights and comedy events. We’re an independent music venue operator which is committed to music and investing in venues.

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What other clubs does The Leadmill’s landlord run and what are its plans for the Sheffield venue?

“We have been running licensed venues since 2003 and have never had any issue or licence review. Our venues in London, Newcastle and Bristol host hundreds of gigs and events every year for thousands of music fans.

“Our team has many years of experience running venues, producing theatre and promoting gigs. When we purchased the freehold for the Leadmill in 2017 it was threatened with redevelopment into flats. We didn’t want that to happen, so we stepped in to buy it and save it – something the leaseholder was not prepared to do.

“The current Leadmill campaign is unfortunately misleading people into thinking we want to close the venue with no regard for its history. That is not the case. In fact, we want to invest in the future of the space – albeit one which will mark the start of a new chapter for a building which has many generations of history with a variety of different operators since it was first a flour mill.

“We hope to be a great custodian of the venue for the next generation. We recognise the roots of the Leadmill within the community and we are determined to see it succeed and thrive.”

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How much did The Leadmill’s landlord pay for the building in 2017?

Mr Madden has repeatedly declined to comment when asked by The Star what steps if any have been taken to evict The Leadmill’s current operators since their existing 20-year lease expired on March 25 this year, and whether he hopes to keep the name if Electric Group does take over the building.

The Leadmill has similarly failed to respond when asked what assurances it has provided to acts which are booked to appear there into next year and whether it has prepared any contingency plans should it be forced out.

The Leadmill opened in 1980 and has staged legendary gigs by the likes of Pulp, the Arctic Monkeys, Coldplay and Oasis. Electric Group bought the building’s freehold from MCR Properties in 2017 for £600,000 and Mr Madden has previously told The Star he plans to take over the building and spend around £1 million refurbishing it to protect its long-term future as a live music venue.

More than 46,000 people signed a petition launched by The Leadmill last year to prevent its eviction, and stars including the Arctic Monkeys have backed the venue’s #WeCantLoseLeadmill campaign. The Leadmill’s general manager Ian Lawlor told The Star in April last year how the team there planned to strip the venue back to the ‘derelict flour mill’ they took over if they were evicted.

MVL Properties, of which Mr Madden is the director, initially applied on April 5 for a ‘shadow’ premises licence. That application has been withdrawn, with no reason given, and a new one was submitted on April 26, with the deadline for written representations falling on May 24.

What is a ‘shadow’ licence and what does it mean for the future of The Leadmill?

The Star has asked Sheffield City Council whether any objections or representations supporting the application have been received, and when a decision is likely to be made. We are awaiting a response to those questions.

Richard Eyre, the council’s director of streetscene and regulation, said: “The Leadmill currently has a Premises Licence in place. Providing the licence isn’t surrendered or lapses due to insolvency or death, the holder of the licence can continue to operate as long as they keep up with the annual licence fee, which they have been doing, so the licence remains in place.

“A Shadow Premises Licence application was submitted for The Leadmill on 26 April 2023 by MVL Properties 2017 Ltd. This licence mirrors exactly what is already in place on the current licence. The consultation period for the Shadow Premises Licence will run until midnight 24 May 2023.

“A shadow licence may be granted where a licence is already in place for a premises. It is common for shadow licences to be used when a venue is operated by a tenant who holds the premises licence. A landlord may wish to apply for a Shadow Premises Licence to safeguard the venue in the event of the tenant’s licence being revoked. The Shadow Licence ensures the premises remains licenced and can continue operating.

“Both the existing and shadow licences give their respective holder permission to carry out activities under The Licensing Act 2003 at the address the licence covers.”