Arts venues must be saved to ensure "there is some remnant of civic and cultural society remaining" after the Covid pandemic, one leading chief has warned.
Anne McReynolds, chief executive of the MAC (Metropolitan Arts Centre), says the organisation has lost around £1.3m in revenue, opening just 33 days in 2020 and has already let go around 45-50 workers.
She says the business has "flatlined" since the coronavirus pandemic began, and that it cannot survive as just a hospitality business, with just its cafe and restaurant.
Ms McReynolds also says "we (the business) are never going back to the way things were" and it must "embrace change" to deal with whatever lies ahead.
"The entire business model depends on people coming into the building. In the future we will diversify and reduce our reliance on the physical presence," she told the Ulster Business Podcast with Bank of Ireland UK.
"That (business) has flatlined. We have always prided ourselves on having a big contribution to the animation of the city centre, and to a non-retail offer in the city centre. We opened 33 days in 2020. That is looking at in excess of £1.3m loss in revenue.
"It's been really difficult since March. It's a terrible time for everyone. When we come out of this it is important that there is some sort of remnant of civic and cultural society remaining, to play its part in the social and economic recovery in Northern Ireland. In the absence of all that, what was it all for?"
One of the toughest decisions that had to be made was making workers redundant amid the crisis. Ms McReynolds said: "The MAC is a relatively large employer. We have provided jobs for more than 110 people at times.
"One of the toughest decisions is we made all our team members on casual contracts redundant - 45-50 people. Young people who are those most at risk regarding employment opportunities.
"We know the MAC can open safely. We know we can do social distancing, because we have done it. We surveyed our audience before they came in to test their anxiety levels, and after. Overwhelmingly, they felt safe and nurtured while they were in the MAC. Notwithstanding the fact that the vaccine is coming, which is brilliant news, restrictions are going to loosen. Arts venues cannot get back to full business capacity."
Listen to the podcast at www. ulsterbusiness.com/interview