Birmingham leisure boss demands Tier 2 status

Move needed to “save scores of venues and thousands of jobs”.

The leader of Birmingham’s main entertainments zone has today demanded Tier 2 status for the city to help save scores of venues and thousands of jobs.

Mike Olley (pictured), who runs the Westside Business Improvement District, was speaking just days before the government reviews its regional COVID-19 restrictions on 16 December.

Birmingham’s Westside area includes the renowned ‘golden mile’ of Broad Street as well as Brindleyplace, Gas Street Basin and surrounding areas.

This is where 150-odd bars, pubs, cafes, restaurants, hotels, nightclubs, casinos, cinema screens, theatres and art galleries are based.

Mr Olley, general manager of Westside BID, said: “Both of the pandemic lockdowns and now Tier 3 has been absolutely devastating on the local economy. We’re talking about multiple millions of pounds in lost revenue simply not moving through what is normally a thriving economy.

“This is the biggest entertainment centre outside of London, but Tier 3 means approximately 100 of our 150-odd hospitality businesses are closed down, with only those offering takeaways able to trade.

“This means that somewhere in the region of 12,000 people working in this area are out of work, including bar staff, waiters, chefs, security staff, cleaners and many more roles. These keen workers often no longer have a job or any wages because of the short-term nature of hospitality, with the prospect of furlough not possible for those not in jobs long enough.

“We therefore demand that the government moves Birmingham back into Tier 2 in its review on 16th December, enabling some businesses to resume trading as they seek to survive this pandemic, and many workers to start earning again.”

Mr Olley highlighted the hospitality sector as one of the safest industries in the UK where businesses had spent small fortunes on COVID-19 training, social distancing protocols, personal protective equipment and sanitising gels.

He said: “If you’re managing a business in this sector you’ve got to be a proven responsible and licenced individual, and that’s why so many venues have invested thousands in health and safety measures to keep staff and customers safe.

“The official statistics themselves reflect this with, at the most, just 3% of COVID-19 infections resulting from hospitality venues, as opposed to 30% in places like schools, colleges and universities.

“That’s why we and our businesses feel so aggrieved at being dumped in Tier 3, and why on 16 December we’re hoping that the government will see sense, recognise just how safe our industry is, move us into Tier 2 and allow us to start trading again.”

Mr Olley added: “Tier 2 in itself will still be tough, but it will at least allow a reasonable amount of business activity to continue for customers from the same households without creating too much risk. Without this, areas like ours will be truly devastated.”