Sheffield City Council last week granted the Electric Group a shadow licence covering The Leadmill. That followed a hearing earlier in the week when a legal representative for the current Leadmill management team raised safety concerns about the Electric Group taking over operations at the venue.
Confirming that decision, Council Leader Tom Hunt said: "The application for a shadow licence was approved because the council's licensing sub-committee found that the applicants demonstrated they could uphold all four of the licensing objectives".
The Electric Group owns the building that houses The Leadmill and has been seeking to take over operations at the venue for more than a year now. But the current management team, led by Phil Mills, have so far refused to vacate the premises, instead running the Save The Leadmill campaign.
For that campaign, attempts by the Electric Group to secure its own licence to run The Leadmill became a key focus. However, the council's licensing committee can only legally refuse to grant a licence based on specific concerns around safety, disorder, nuisance or harm.
As a result, it seemed unlikely that the Electric Group's attempts to take over running The Leadmill could be blocked via that committee.
At last week's hearing, the lawyer representing Mills said that the licence application by the Electric Group and its boss Dominic Madden was "unsafe". Citing reports and reviews about Madden's other venues in London, Newcastle and Bristol, she said there was "a consistent theme ... Mr Madden has a fundamental disregard for safety".
Madden strongly denied those claims and the licensing committee ultimately sided with the Electric Group on that point.
In his statement, Hunt stressed that the job of the licensing committee was to confirm that the Electric Group's licence application complied with the law, not to form opinions on whether or not a London-based venues company should be allowed to take over the operations of a Sheffield venue.
The shadow licence runs concurrent to the licence already held by Mills to operate The Leadmill. It means that, if and when the Electric Group successfully evicts Mills - and eviction proceedings are ongoing - Madden's company will be able to immediately start running the venue.
In a statement, the current Leadmill team said: "The fight for the future of The Leadmill and its staff is far from over, and we will be considering our next steps over the next few days. All scheduled events will still go ahead as planned and we will continue to programme events further into the future while the legal process continues".
They then added: "We remain defiant against a London landlord trying to get his hands on one of Sheffield’s cultural assets in such a cheap and underhand way".