Birmingham restaurateur starts petition to reduce cars and increase pedestrianisation

Restaurant owner John Stapleton told councillors they are making life “harder” for businesses burdened with pandemic debt

The owner of a fine dining restaurant in Birmingham has started a petition to reduce cars and increase pedestrianisation to help local businesses in his area.

Over 650 people have signed the petition – launched this month – after Birmingham city council’s transport chief, Liz Clements, told a business owner she was not able “to take a different position” on keeping outdoor dining tables at his bar.

It comes after John Stapleton, the co-owner of 1,000 Trades, in the Jewellery Quarter, asked the council why it intends to remove bollards and dining tables outside his restaurant. During the meeting, he told councillors they are making life “harder” for businesses burdened with pandemic debt, massive increases in costs, and the looming recession.

The council says outdoor dining was brought in under temporary traffic legislation – the Traffic Orders Procedure (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020 Act – to allow restaurants to trade during the pandemic.

But the temporary regulations ended in October 2022, which means that outdoor structures, such as decked areas or gazebos in the road, will no longer be allowed. It means the council are now considering reinstalling parking spots at the restaurant.

Alex Claridge, the head chef and owner of fine dining restaurant The Wilderness, started the petition after reading a report by the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) about Mr Stapleton’s question to the council.

He told the LDRS the council “should choose better” when it comes to helping hospitality businesses, and said many streets in the Jewellery Quarter have “loads of room to grow”.

He said: “There’s still a surprising number of streets where there’s nothing going on. Given the amount of people who actually live here and call this home […] it shouldn’t be seeing as an either/or, we should be looking creatively to build something better.

“St. Paul Square during the summer time is lovely. It has that European sort of spill-out culture – everyone chatting, interacting, grabbing a slushie from St. Paul’s House or takeout pizza from Otto – but I don’t think I’m alone in a desire to see a more vibrant [Jewellery Quarter].

“Bars like 1,000 Trades are part of the fabric that makes this part of Birmingham interesting. It makes it quirky, keeps it different, keeps it weird.”

 John Stapleton, the co-owner of 1,000 Trades
 John Stapleton, the co-owner of 1,000 Trades
John Stapleton, the co-owner of 1,000 Trades

Mr Claridge walks his dog down Frederick Street – where 1,000 Trades are based – nearly everyday. He said the parking bay set to be restored by Birmingham city council proves the local authority are “talking about the wrong issue”.

Sarah Rennie, an accessibility specialist in the transport sector, claimed some of the problems facing Birmingham city council could be solved with an accessibility officer.

“We used to have one years ago, around the credit crunch time, when all the jobs started to go, and it never got put back in. Manchester city council have got one. Obviously London; Cambridge and even Carlisle local authorities have an accessibility lead.

“It’s a role that is technical. It’s a specialist skill. It’s not the sort of general equalities and cohesion type role. It’s somebody that would review plans, technical drawings, designs, and ask questions, you know, against standards.”

Ms Rennie pointed out accessibility problems at Birmingham New Street station and Centenary Square. “We can’t afford to not only waste money but make decisions that are stopping large chunks of our community accessing spaces and accessing businesses.

“This city is relying on volunteers to bring technical expertise to the table. It’s not acceptable that our council doesn’t have this role, because it would, it would help avoid silly decisions.”

Sophie Kilmartin, owner of The Borrow Shop, said she wanted people who visit the Jewellery Quarter to enjoy bars and restaurants alfresco.

She said: “York Road in Kings Heath is a wonderful example of how a relatively small amount of pedestrianised space can transform an area. I visited last summer and so many people were able to enjoy the hospitality businesses in a European-like-environment.

“I wish we could have a slice of this in the JQ. Around 10,000 people now live here and we really lack places for people to hang around outside. Some of the main roads in the Jewellery Quarter could really benefit from pedestrianisation – Caroline Street and Warstone Lane – and would massively help businesses in the area to utilise the space.”

Ms Kilmartin disagreed with the council’s position to remove the parklets. “There are multiple multi-storey car parks in the area that are often quite empty, she said: “We need to encourage drivers to park their vehicles here where possible and free up the streets for people.”