HALSTEAD’S famous Empire Theatre has been forced to shut its doors to the public due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Butler Road theatre made the decision to suspend all of its upcoming events on Wednesday.

A spokesman said: “We will be closing the Empire Theatre until further notice. This decision has been made due to the escalating Covid-19 outbreak and recent UK Government advice and guidelines, which we have been carefully monitoring.

“This means all film, streaming, bingo, dementia choir, live shows and any classes are affected.

“We are committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for all of our volunteers, hirers and visitors.

“We value all our visitors, hirers and volunteers and their health and safety is our main priority during this difficult time.

“We shall look forward to welcoming you back as soon as possible.”

The theatre’s closure means events like the upcoming Oliver Twist production have been cancelled.

More bad news for arts lovers soon followed when the popular Quay Theatre in Sudbury also announced it would be closing.

All productions and auditions, such as for Sudbury Dramatic Society’s upcoming The Warden, have been called off.

Sudbury Dramatic Society chairman Malcolm Hollister said: “The impact for Sudbury Dramatic Society is we have ceased all current activities.

“We have paused rehearsal of Joking Apart, we will complete the casting of Dial M for Murder but its not clear when we will start rehearsing.

“All subsequent activities are on hold until we know more.”

Events are hopefully set to be rescheduled for next year.

For more information, contact mike@empire-theatre.co.uk or call 07947 556501.