TWO different live venue operators are now interested in Bradford’s former Odeon, according to the businessman hoping to bring the building back to life.

Lee Craven, director of not-for-profit company Bradford Live, said they were now undertaking a big push to get one of the companies signed up to the £15m project by summer.

He said: “It has been an encouraging few weeks. We are talking now with two potential operators. Both are keen, both have experience - they know what they are doing and they know what they are looking for.

“Over the next few months, we are going to develop these negotiations with them, so hopefully by summer we should have an agreement with one of them.”

Bradford Live won a contest to get the chance to turn the Bradford Council-owned 1930s building back into a live venue.

Its £15m plan relies on investment from an operator and Bradford Live, as well as significant grant funding.

But it had hoped to have an operator signed up by now.

An original, unnamed, company which had been in advanced talks about running the venue had since pulled out to concentrate on another project elsewhere, Mr Craven said.

He said: “It was frustrating for us, because we put a lot of time and effort into that, but never mind.”

Mr Craven said he was confident they could overcome a “chicken and egg” situation, in which operators wanted the grant funding secured before they committed to the project, but funding providers wanted an operator on board before they gave out a grant.

He said: “We have made a lot of progress. I know to the outside observer, it doesn’t look as if much is happening, but there’s a tremendous amount of work going on behind the scenes.

“I just hope people realise that.”

Funding of £325,000 from the Local Growth Fund, which is overseen by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and the Local Enterprise Partnership, has also been put on hold pending a commitment from an operator.

The cash is meant to fund the removal of the 1960s cinema rooms to open up the original auditorium, but the work hasn’t yet been able to go ahead.

A spokesman for the Combined Authority said it had approved the funding last year.

She said: “Since then, discussions have been held with both Bradford Live and Bradford Council regarding the terms of this funding but unfortunately there has been a delay to Bradford Live securing their proposed operator for the building. As a result, the Combined Authority’s contribution has not yet been made.

“The funds identified are still being held for the project and it is hoped that this support will enable Bradford Live to secure their operator as well as the private sector funds and necessary grant aid for the refurbishment of the Odeon building to go ahead.”