Equality law - Theatres and other entertainment venues

Advice and Guidance

Who is this page for?

  • Any organisation providing a service

Which countries is it relevant to?

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Equality law applies to any business that provides goods, facilities or services to members of the public.

This includes a wide range of different businesses and services. Within this, it would include lots of different entertainment venues both large and small, such as:

  • theatres
  • cinemas
  • music venues – everything from a large opera house through to a local jazz café
  • comedy clubs
  • arts festivals, including music and children’s festivals.

This also applies to places that are not usually used for entertainment but have occasions when members of the public do use them for that purpose. For example, a church which holds lunchtime music recitals or an empty shop which is opened up for an arts festival.

It doesn’t matter whether the service is free, for example, a free concert, or whether it must be paid for – it will still be covered by equality law. 

First, use the list on page What equality law means for your business when you’re providing goods, facilities or services to the public to make sure you know what equality law says you must do as a business providing goods, facilities or services to the public.

You may need to work out if you are an association or a service provider.

Because your activities take place at a particular place, you will need to make sure a venue is accessible to disabled people by making reasonable adjustments. You cannot wait until a disabled person wants to use your services, but must think in advance about what people with a range of impairments might reasonably need, such as people who have a visual impairment, a hearing impairment, a mobility impairment or a learning disability.

Even though you may describe yourself as a ‘club’ (and many clubs are what equality law calls associations), you are really a service provider if you are offering a service to any member of the public, for example, by:

  • charging them an entry fee to watch an event
  • allowing anyone to join your jazz club provided they pay for the service

even if the charge is described as a membership fee, or if the service is free. If, for example, you allow a person to watch a concert for free, you are still providing them with a service.

If you are not sure whether you are a service provider or an association, then ask yourself:

  • Are there 25 or more members and is membership regulated by rules – for example, do all the members have to decide who becomes a new member?

If the answer to that is ‘yes’, then you should read the guide on associations instead.

It is possible to be both an association and a service provider.

For example:

A private members’ club with rules regulating membership will be an association when it is dealing with its members and their guests, but a service provider if it allows members of the public to attend stand-up comedy events held in its function rooms.

If you are both an association and a service provider, the question you need to think about is whether your services are provided to the public or to your members, associate members and their guests or people who want to become members or guests.

If it is the public, then this is the right guide for you to read.

If it is your members or their guests or people who want to become members or guests, you should read the guide on associations instead. 

Reasonable adjustments are not just about changes to physical features or the addition of auxiliary aids such as a hearing loop, although these can be important to some disabled people. Consider providing information (such as programmes and publicity material) in alternative formats and offering an additional ticket for free to a disabled person who needs to bring an assistant. 

If your venue is of a type that means that you need to restrict services based on health and safety considerations, make sure that any action taken in relation to health or safety is proportionate to the risk.

Disabled people are entitled to make the same choices and to take the same risks within the same limits as other people. Health and safety law does not require you as a service provider to remove all conceivable risk, but to ensure that risk is properly appreciated, understood and managed. Don’t make assumptions; instead, assess the person’s situation, and consider reasonable adjustments to reduce any risks, your duty not to discriminate and, where appropriate, the disabled person’s own views. There must be a balance between protecting against the risk and restricting disabled people from access to services. 

For example:

A cinema manager turns away a wheelchair user because they assume, without checking, that the disabled person could be in danger in the event of a fire. Although the manager genuinely believes that refusing admission to wheelchair users is necessary in order not to endanger the health or safety of either the disabled person or other cinemagoers, they have not made enquiries as to whether there are adequate means of escape (which there are). The belief is therefore unlikely to be reasonably held. In these circumstances, the refusal of admission is unlikely to be justified. The right approach is for the manager to check the facts and to make a decision based upon them.


Last updated: 15 Jul 2019

Further information

If you think you might have been treated unfairly and want further advice, you can contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service.

Phone: 0808 800 0082
Textphone: 0808 800 0084

You can email using the contact form on the EASS website.

Also available through the website are BSL interpretation, web chat services and a contact us form.


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closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays

Alternatively, you can visit our advice and guidance page.