Warning from Birmingham leisure bosses about lockdown

Fears of industry devastation and mass infections at home because of Tier 3 status.

Birmingham nightlife chiefs have reacted angrily to news that the city is to stay under Tier 3 restrictions.

Julia Robinson, manager of the Southside District that includes Chinatown and the Gay Village, said: “The continuation of Tier 3 restrictions for Birmingham will have a devastating impact on our hospitality sector unless significant and urgent additional financial support is confirmed.

“We are already seeing the impact of the second lockdown and Tier 3 restrictions in Southside, with a number of our restaurants taking the very difficult decision to close even their takeaway and delivery options, leaving them with no income whatsoever. The existing grants don’t scratch the surface of the mounting costs that these businesses are facing, and with the next rent quarter due in January, it’s going to be a bleak time for some of our most loved venues. These businesses need clarity now on greater financial support, an extension to the business rates holiday and the VAT reduction scheme.

“Nightclubs in particular have been overlooked once again – with the latest grants providing more support for businesses able to trade in Tier 2 restrictions but nothing for Nightclubs that have been forced to close since March.”

“Behind every closed restaurant, bar and nightclub are hardworking business owners and their employees, who are facing an anxious and uncertain time. The mental health toll in addition to the financial burden is significant, and we urge Birmingham City Council and Government to take urgent action to ensure a future for our hospitality sector, before it’s too late.”

Mike Olley, who runs the Westside Business Improvement District, claimed that keeping large areas of the UK in Tier 3 could result in a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections.

The Westside area includes the renowned golden mile of Broad Street as well as Brindleyplace, Gas Street Basin and surrounding areas where some 150-odd bars, pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues are based. Mr Olley said: “By keeping our entertainment district closed, people will be wanting to meet up and socialise to the maximum levels allowed over Christmas, and probably much more.

“What may have been a careful sip of sherry on the doorstep could now turn into a veritable party in the warm and stuffy halls, lounges, dining rooms, kitchens and garages of thousands of family homes across the Midlands.

“Compare that risky environment to the safe places that entertainment venues have created and you could be unleashing a mass of COVID-19 infections that will keep Birmingham, the Midlands and the UK in semi-lockdown for weeks or even months ahead.”

Mr Olley explained that he was “furious” about the Tiers decision when all his BID members had been spending tens of thousands of pounds on new safety measures, training, protocols and equipment to keep their staff and customers safe.

He said: “To be honest, the government ruined Christmas without good reason two weeks ago by placing us in Tier 3. Even if this changed tomorrow there’s little chance of opening pubs and restaurants for at least a couple of days because of supplies, getting staff back to work and so on.

“Our Christmas trade would normally would have climaxed this weekend, so all Mr Hancock has done today is to confirm that all is now lost for the whole festive period.

“Even if the next review in a fortnight’s time moves us into Tier 2 it will be too late for the healthy boost in trade we normally see on New Year’s Eve. And then we are into the usual doldrums of early January.”

Mr Olley added: “Not only will this continuing Tier 3 be even more devastating for the local economy, but the resulting parties in many homes will make it even harder for communities and the economy to recover.”