THE manager of a longstanding arts venue in a seaside town has said the Prime Minister's advice about the coronavirus outbreak will "decimate our industry".

Rob Mitchell-Gears runs the West Cliff Theatre, in Tower Road, Clacton, which opened back in 1928.

Over the years, the much-loved and iconic looking building, has played host to a range of both entertainment legends and local performing arts groups.

Familiar faces such as Don Maclean and Anita Harris have all graced the West Cliff stage.

But in an unprecedented move, the venue has now announced it will be closing for at least 30 days and all shows within that period will be suspended or cancelled.

The decision follows Boris Johnson's plea to the nation, which came on Monday evening, to avoid crowded public spaces like theatres and pubs.

But despite his advice, the Prime Minister has so far refused to actually close the sector, meaning insurance claims made by venues will likely not stand up.

"After the somewhat ambiguous statement from the Prime Minister we have no choice but to close for the next 30 days and for the foreseeable future," said Mr Mitchell-Gears.

"We are attempting to reschedule shows for future dates and are working closely with promoters to achieve this.

"The financial ramifications for the leisure sector are huge and we need the public to support us all at this very difficult time. "

Boris Johnson and the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has now announced grants will be available to eligible leisure businesses.

But Mr Mitchell-Gears is concerned the lack of cash flow could singlehandedly wipe out the entire sector.

"I have spoken to several other theatre managers, as well as promoters, and this is going to decimate our industry," said Mr Mitchell-Gears.

"Thousands of people are going to be in desperate need of support over the coming months - these are very unsettling times for us all.

"It is heart breaking to see things unravel so fast, but all we can do is work hard and support each other where possible."

The West Cliff Theatre is now exploring ways customers can either transfer tickets to new dates or accept a credit note to be used for future shows.

Elsewhere in Clacton, the Princes Theatre has also cancelled all events previously scheduled to take place in March, with forthcoming shows in April also in doubt.

Tendring Specialist Stroke Services have also pulled their Spring Fair, which was due to take place next month, while the Clacton Choral Society has cancelled all of its forthcoming shows.

The Harwich Half Marathon, which returned last year after a 28-year hiatus, will also no longer go ahead.

But other event planners are remaining defiant in the face of Covid-19, until they are advised otherwise.

The Proper Family Festival, due to take place across the Easter bank holiday weekend, is currently still planning to go ahead, but organisers have said they are "closely keeping an eye" on Government guidelines.