Wetherspoons in U-turn and announce State cinema is up for sale

By Neil Speight

20th Oct 2022 | Local News

What you could have had! Wetherspoons' plans for the State have now been abandoned.
What you could have had! Wetherspoons' plans for the State have now been abandoned.

DESPITE assurances just a couple of weeks ago that it would be pressing ahead with the project to turn Grays' State cinema into a showcase venue, pub chain Wetherspoons has now confirmed it is selling the building.

In a statement today (Thursday, 20 October) company spokesman Eddie Gershon, who gave those assurances on 28 September, said: "JD Wetherspoon has reluctantly concluded it no longer wishes to continue with the project and has appointed CBRE and Savills to market the Freehold Grade II* listed property."

There is no published asking price for the building, which is in a near derelict condition. The sale brochure can be found via this link.

Constructed in 1938 the State was one of the largest single screen cinemas within Essex, boasting more than 2,200 seats. The cinema closed in 1988 after 50 years owing to nearby multiplex competition and has been through a variety of uses since including Charleston's wine bar and nightclub which operated there throughout the 1990s.

The whole site was then acquired by Morrison's in June 2000 and planning was granted for a modern store on the site of the former car park.

The cinema premises was then sold in 2006 to a local investor who obtained planning for a Pentecostal Church before subsequently being sold again.

The property was then acquired by Wetherspoon in 2015 with proposals to convert into a pub in the heart of the town. Having achieving planning permission to convert it into a pub in 2018, work commenced in 2019 but halted due to the appointed contractor's insolvency. Before a new contractor could be appointed covid struck, and conversion works were halted. In the interim Wetherspoons returned to the council with a revised planning application, which was also granted.

However, it has now proved to be another false dawn and new buyers for the iconic venue are being sought.

Paul Breen, Director at Savills commented: "The premises are superbly located in the heart of the town centre, and their size and scale offers the opportunity for a wide variety of uses in such a prominent location while also benefitting from being immediately adjacent to the thriving Morrisons supermarket "

Toby Hall, Senior Director at CBRE added: "Whilst the building does require some investment to restore it back to its former glory, the State provides a unique opportunity for an owner /occupier to secure an historic landmark within Grays town centre"

The State's Compton organ. at its keybopard is the father of Grays man Peter Hammond who has been at the forefront of the campaign to 'Save the State.'

Within the building is a Compton organ which it was hoped would be restored brought back to its former glory. There is no mention at all of the organ in the sales brochure. The Compton is much revered in the UK organ world, particularly by the Cinema Organ Society and many were looking forward to one again seeing it rise to the stage. Among them were members of the Grays-based 'Save the State' campaign.


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