BOLTON'S Albert Halls is finally able to take bank card payments at its bars after frustrated theatregoers were previously limited to using cash.

The 1,000 capacity Albert Hall theatre and its associated hospitality suites, the Festival Hall and Lancaster Suite, within Bolton Town Hall, have operated a cash-only bar system, which often meant some of those attending needed to leave to obtain money from nearby bank machines.

It has also been announced that the theatre will introduce a pre-ordered interval drinks service for the first time.

The improvements and an update on a new business plan for the venue were revealed at a meeting of Bolton’s full council.

Cabinet member Cllr Hilary Fairclough told a full councl meeting: “Unfortunately, we have not been available to have card payments at the bars due to delays with financial governance arrangements.

“I am pleased to report that this process is now complete and the card payment machines have been delivered to the Albert Halls and will be activated in time for pantomime season.”

Cllr Fairclough said since the theatre’s re-opening after pandemic restrictions, emails had been sent to ticket holders about the cash only arrangements and front of house staff also advised visitors as they arrived.

She added that changes in staffing now meant that those attending performances would now be able to pre-order drinks for the interval.

Cllr Fairclough was responding to comments made by her Conservative colleague Cllr John Walsh, who said is was time for ‘a robust and vibrant business plan’ for the Albert Halls.

He said: “The previous management structure decided all the voluntary and amateur groups that performed at the Albert Hall weren’t really necessary and they could find somewhere else as they overhauled structure and concentrated on really expensive external events.

“It’s encumbent on this council now to address the failings of 40 years of previous administrations on the Albert Halls.”

Cllr Fairclough, said: “Earlier this year the council secured Arts Council funding which has been used to undertake a review of the current operating model and the impact of COVID-19.

“We have taken the decision to transfer the responsibility of managing the overhaul into the chief executive’s department.

“There is a review due to be completed in December on how we can improve the operating model to yield a commercial return.

“We have many things to look forward to and the halls continue to be booked for a range of activities.”