Artist's impression of Co-op Live

New Manchester venue Co-Op Live has had its licence granted despite ongoing controversy surrounding the project.

The 23,500-capacity arena is scheduled to open its doors on Tuesday, April 23 when Peter Kay will play the first of two consecutive stand-up dates there.

Liam GallagherTake ThatNicki MinajOlivia Rodrigo and Keane are among the acts who have been announced to perform at Co-Op Live in the coming months. It’ll also stage the 2024 MTV European Music Awards later this year.

The new venue, which is the UK’s largest indoor arena, is located opposite Manchester’s Etihad Stadium, and features a “unique bowl design” that will bring fans “closer to the artist than at other arenas of equivalent size”, according to a spokesperson.

Recently, Co-Op Live and the existing, 21-000 capacity AO Arena in the city came to blows in a licensing row. ASM Global, which operates the latter venue, objected over “public safety” concerns and accused the application for a licence as being “simply unlawful”.

Gary Roden, Executive Director and General Manager, Co-Op Live, said in a statement today (March 1): “We are delighted that Manchester City Council’s Licensing Sub-Committee has today voted to approve our application for a premises licence.

“We are grateful to local councillors and residents for their engagement during the process and will remain committed to being the best possible neighbour to the local community up to opening and beyond.”

‌Roden added: “Manchester deserves the best, and with the opening of Co-Op Live just weeks away we’re excited to begin this new chapter in the city’s enviable cultural story.

“This £365million investment will transform the fan experience of live entertainment, bring international superstars to Manchester, set a new benchmark for large arenas around the world and deliver a significant economic boost to the entire North West region.”

ASM initially stated that it had no issue with Co-Op Live remaining open until midnight, but concerns later arose at the prospect of the space being allowed to open until around 2am on weekends.

In written submissions to Manchester City Council’s licensing committee, the operator of AO Arena said it only wanted to promote licensing objectives to “safeguard public safety and the prevention of public nuisance”.

ASM argued Co-Op Live should close by midnight at the latest, and not be given the ability to open 24/7 on 25 occasions every year as requested.

Gary Gran of ASM Global claimed that the brand took an interest in the appeal for a licence by Co-Op Live as they are “significant stakeholders in Manchester’s cultural and leisure life” (via Manchester Evening News).

Co-Op Live subsequently hit back at the AO Arena, accusing it of making a “ludicrous and disingenuous” objection to the venue’s opening. Barrister Jeremy Phillips KC repeated the claims that AO’s objection was “only about trade protection” and acknowledged an element of competition between the two venues.

As the MEN reports, the panel today heard objections to Co-Op Live’s late-night opening – up to 2:30am for some events for up to 6,000 fans – from local residents and councillors as well as ASM.

NME has contacted Co-Op Live for clarification on its agreed opening times.

The new arena previously “declined” to sign up for a £1-per-ticket levy that contributes to the Music Venue Trust’s (MVT) “pipeline investment fund” for grassroots venues. During a past hearing, Mark Donnelly, chief operating officer of Co-Op Live, suggested that the MVT’s objection to the venue was out of spite owing to its refusal to opt in for the levy. However, the MVT’s Niall Forde said this suggestion was “inflammatory” and “entirely false” (via BBC).

The MVT has instead taken issue with the venue’s “ancillary spaces” being allowed to stay open later into the night, because of the impact it could have on neighbouring residents and smaller businesses. One concern was that Co-Op Live could “draw business away from the Northern Quarter” area of Manchester.

News of the licence being granted comes after Live Nation reported 2023 as its biggest year ever for concert turnout and ticket sales – despite two UK grassroots venues per week being forced to close.

A recent Music Venue Trust (MVT) report, meanwhile, showed the “disaster” that struck these venues nationwide last year. It found that 125 UK venues abandoned live music in 2023 and that over half had shut entirely.

In response to Live Nation’s latest annual numbers, the MVT’s Mark Davyd said that “all 125” of the affected grassroots venues “could have been saved for somewhere in the region of £3million; about $3.8million. That’s just 0.06% of Live Nation’s additional revenue this year.

“Not their total revenue, their additional revenue. That is the additional revenue Live Nation made in the year those venues closed down […] And even if you show them these maths they still insist that a sustainable grassroots sector is an unaffordable financial burden on the industry.”

He added: “The economic maths of the live music industry is completely bonkers and it cannot possibly continue.”

In February 2023, Davyd said that “not a single one of those [new] arenas should open unless it has a policy where every ticket sold is investing back into grassroots music venues and grassroots artists”.

He continued: “Co-Op Live in Manchester will be a 23,500-capacity venue due to open later this year or early next year. It has no plan at all to invest in the grassroots venues that are going to create the artists that will fill that stage in 10 years time. That is not good enough.”

The post Manchester’s new largest music venue Co-Op Live has licence granted despite controversy appeared first on NME.


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