Birmingham business review of the year – Part 3: Restaurant owners fight back and goodbye to John Lewis

Quarter three started with the news of the devastating impact no shows were having on restaurants in the city after the Government started to ease lockdown restrictions.

Jaimon George, a director at Thai restaurant Zen Metro, said there were 115 bookings in the diary for a Saturday in July but 31 of those did not honour their reservation.

His comments were made as a new national campaign called No More No Shows gathered momentum as restaurants and pubs struggled to battle back against the impact of covid-19 after they were allowed to reopen on July 4.

“This level of no-shows are just not acceptable and financially viable for any businesses,” Mr George said.

Jaimon George from Zen Metro warned of the dangers of no shows to restaurants
Jaimon George from Zen Metro warned of the dangers of no shows to restaurants
(Image: Courtesy of ZEN Metro)

There was another hammer blow to the city’s already struggling retail sector when John Lewis announced it would not be reopening its giant store above New Street station.

It was one of eight sites across the UK, including an At Home branch in Tamworth, which was to stay permanently closed.

Shops across the country had been allowed to reopen on June 15 but the four-floor John Lewis above New Street station remained closed.

Surf and watersports fans received a boost when North Warwickshire planners backed the development of a £25 million surf park.

Emerge Surf Birmingham will see 15 acres of land near Coleshill regenerated to create a surf lagoon and surf school, outdoor heated swimming pool, hub building, fitness studio and children’s play area.

It is estimated the project will create 100 jobs and bring up to £21 million in economic benefit to the region by attracting 250,000 visitors per year.

CGI of Emerge Surf Birmingham which won the backing of North Warwickshire planners
CGI of Emerge Surf Birmingham which won the backing of North Warwickshire planners

New designs were unveiled showcasing the planned the planned £286 million regeneration of Birmingham International station as transport chiefs plan for wider proposals in Solihull such as Birmingham Airport’s expansion and the arrival of HS2.

The work will create a 163,600 sq ft transport hub with links to the adjacent airport and NEC complex, buses, rapid transit, private vehicles, taxis, bicycles and HS2 via a new automated people mover.

Staying with transport news, the new HS2 Interchange station in Solihull was given the go ahead by borough planners – but work must still be done to address parking provision at the site.

The station will be built on land 1.2 miles east of Birmingham Airport next to the M42 and be connected to the airport, NEC campus and Birmingham International station via a people mover.

A surface level car park with more than 7,200 spaces was included as part of the planning approval but stakeholders are now working on alternative proposals, most likely multi-storey car parks, in order to free up development land.

HS2 Interchange station in Solihull was given the green light
HS2 Interchange station in Solihull was given the green light

It follows consent for the Curzon Street stationin Birmingham city centre, awarded in April.

A new consultation was launched into the £3 billion Arden Cross project in Solihull.

The long-term aim for Arden Cross is to create a new commercial and residential hub which could comprise up to 3,000 new homes and six million sq ft of commercial space which will support 27,000 jobs.

The site covers more than 340 acres next to the M42 and regional chiefs claim it could add £1 billion a year to the local economy.

September started with the news the city’s popular Christmas Market would return for 2020 despite the issues thrown up by the coronavirus crisis.

However, the joy did not last long as a few days later organisers confirmed it would not go ahead as the safety of stallholders and visitors could not be guaranteed. The cancellation hit the city’s tourism economy for hundreds of millions.

An interesting new transport trial started in Birmingham with 200 e-scooters taking to the city’s streets.

Swedish company Voi was chosen following a tender process to operate the trial of the e-scooters which are operated using a smartphone app and have restrictions on speed to help with public safety.

Voi e-scooters have become a common site around Birmingham under a new trial
Voi e-scooters have become a common site around Birmingham under a new trial
(Image: Voi Technology)

One of the West Midlands’ more prominent employers announced a major restructure as it faced up to “almost zero” revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic.

NEC Group said it was planning to make up to 450 redundancies after seeing its income devastated by the lockdown and mass cancellation of public events.

The news came shortly after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a tightening of coronavirus restrictions which included a halt to the return of conferences which had been due to recommence on October 1.

Completing our round up of quarter three was the news that plans had been lodged to revamp Perry Barr station.

The work will see a new-look building with multiple entrances, a ticket office, an accessible toilet and baby change facility, out-of-hours entrance, lifts and new stairs.

The designs were not universally loved though so transports chiefs went back to the drawing board and resubmitted the planning application in December.

Business Live – West Midlands