Category Archives: Business

New Sutton micropub a real family affair

The McDiarmid family outside one of their other pubs. The Ale Hub is expected to open before Christmas

A new micropub opening in Sutton Coldfield is a real family affair with the owners saying they want it to have a community feel and employ local people.

The McDiarmid family will open their fourth Ale Hub in Mere Green, at the former premises of Garner Canning Solicitors on Hill Village Road.

The former solicitor’s office on Hill Village Road

The new mini boozer will offer traditional ales for drinkers, together with a selection of gins, other drinks and bar snacks and provide a relaxed environment for customers.

It will be open from midday to 11pm seven days a week.

The family will spend around £50,000 converting the offices into a new real ale mini boozer, with a capacity of around 12 tables. There will be background music, but no electronic machines, with the emphasis on conversation and socialising with few distractions.

It is anticipated that work will start sometime in October and the conversion should be complete towards the end of the year and almost certainly by Christmas.

It should be good timing as the long-awaited transformation of Mere Green and Mulberry Walk in particular, and will add more variation to the already vibrant food and drink scene.

It will be their fourth pub to open during the pandemic, a tribute to their business acumen and determination in difficult circumstances.

The family, who are based in the Solihull area, also run a web-based logistics company.

They said they have a love of real ale and became disillusioned over the quality of real ales being offered at larger chains, where the main emphasis is on food, rather than the quality of the drinks.

Parents Neil and Sue McDiarmid, together with sons Campbell, Connor and daughter Brodie decided to have a go themselves and opened micropubs in Dickens Heath and Shirley with another due to open in Worcester. The say they pride themselves on the Ale Hub being a family-run business.

Their aim is to help to revitalise the local pub scene and provide the community with a choice of refreshing and well-kept drinks in a relaxed and friendly environment.

Campbell explained how the family became involved: “My mum and dad are real ale lovers and they struggled to find somewhere to go to cater for their needs. They saw that ales were generally poorly kept and saw a gap in the market for a local community feel pubs that offer cask ale, craft beers but doesn’t concentrate on the food side.

“We chose Mere Green when we were told it would be suitable for the clientele we were aiming for. We looked for about three months and then this venue came up and we went for it.”

“We will employ a local manager with around four part-time staff, who will also be local.”

Campbell added that the quality of the ales was paramount. “We have strict procedures in place,” he said. “There are protocols in every one of our bars to ensure quality.”

The tiny new pub, sandwiched between a general store and a barbers shop, will offer another option for tipplers in the area, offering a range of traditional real ales together with various gins and other drinks.

The plan approved by Birmingham City Council shows the ground floor will have a bar area, cellar and around a dozen tables, with toilet facilities on the first floor.

In a statement to Birmingham City Council planning department, The Ale Hub said: “We are looking to operate a micropub out of the premises which will have a focus on being a pleasant friendly space for the local community.”

Lidl Store to support food charities

Special offers for opening week

Lidl GB has confirmed that its new supermarket in Mere Green, Sutton Coldfield, will provide surplus food for local food banks after the store opens this Thursday, August 5.

The new store will be providing surplus produce and customer donations to local charities, including Sutton Coldfield United Reformed Church and Hope Food who run food banks to help those in need, as well as Help to Make Tummies Full, who redistribute surplus food to prevent local children from going hungry.

This is delivered through Lidl’s Feed it Back scheme, which is run in partnership with Neighbourly and connects Lidl stores up and down the country with local charities, foodbanks, community cafes and kitchens, putting quality food surplus to good use every day.

The store has also said that it recommends the wearing of face coverings and will provide hand sanitisation for the foreseeable future.

During the first week of opening customers will be able to find exclusive deals and offers on selected products including a Tri Scooter with LED wheels (£8.99) on opening day, a Foot Spa Medisana (£9.99) the following day and a Record Player Dual (£44.99) on Saturday 7 August.

Part of the company’s ongoing £1.3bn expansion and regeneration plans across Great Britain for 2021 and 2022, the store will create around 40 new jobs for the local community. 

The new electric car charging station at Lidl

The store, which will provide electric car charging stations, said opening times will be between 8am – 10pm Monday to Saturday, and 10am – 4pm on Sunday, delivering Lidl’s offering of fresh, quality and great value produce. 

As well as being fitted with solar panels to help power the store, the supermarket will also have facilities such as an 1325m² sales area, an instore bakery, customer toilet and 124 car parking spaces, including 2 electric vehicle charging spaces.

Lidl GB’s Regional Head of Property, Rachel Hargreaves, commented: “We would like to thank all those who have played a part in bringing this new Lidl store to Mere Green.

“It is fantastic that we are able to continue our investment in Birmingham, enabling even more of the local community access to our multi-award winning products. We are delighted to be able to create more jobs and investment opportunities in the area and look forward to welcoming everyone to our new store.”

Opening date for store

The new store nears completion and will feature a rapid charging point in the car park

Lidl announces August 5 opening

Discount grocer Lidl has confirmed that its new store in Mere Green will open on August 5. The German-owned giant will provide competition for Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Poundland in the area.

A new Aldi is also planned for the former Waitrose on Belwell Lane.

Around 40 jobs, both full and part-time, will be created at the new Sutton Coldfield store and the news comes after a new Thai tapas style restaurant, the Giggling Squid, opened this week (July 26).

Workers are rushing to complete inside of the store and the car park will see the first rapid electric car charging point on the car park.

A Lidl spokesman said: “Once opened, the store will create around 40 full and part time jobs for the local area and we look forward to delivering our fresh, quality and affordable produce to the local community.”

The new supermarket is on the site of the former industrial premises in Mere Green Road, which has lain derelict for more than 10 years.

The store has not met with universal approval with fears of traffic chaos.

It does seem inevitable there will be a big increase in traffic on the busy stretch of road, with Mulberry Walk fully open with gym, shops, bars and restaurants. With a busy garage also at Mere Green island, it looks like delays will be on the way.

The Giggling Squid has opened with discounted prices for a limited time. For booking info, visit the new website at https://www.gigglingsquid.com/restaurant/mere-green/

Hokey Cokey for hospitality in Sutton

It’s becoming a bit like the hokey cokey for hospitality venues in Sutton Coldfield. They’re in, they’re out, then they’re back in again and who knows, maybe out again?

The Butlers Arms on Lichfield Road only reopened last weekend after the pub closed due to Covid-19 and The Bracebridge in Sutton Park was also forced to close its doors until July 24 for the same reason.

Now another popular venue, the Farmhouse Bistro at the Mitchell Centre on Weeford Road, has been forced to close and in another development, Mocha Coffee Lounge in Streetly has done the same.

A message on the Farmhouse Bistro website made this announcement: “We regret that the Bistro is now closed for a few days due to enforced staff isolation. We thank you for your understanding and look forward to seeing you again soon. Watch this space for an announcement on reopening”

The Mocha Lounge also added a similar message on Facebook.

It would appear that this is going to be a running theme. There are reports that a popular hospitality venue in Sutton Coldfield has told staff, via a memo, that if they attend a nightclub, they should not return to work for at least three days to try and prevent infections.

Work starts on City clean air scheme

Pictured left to right: Councillor Waseem Zaffar , Councillor Ian Ward the Leader of Birmingham City Council, Mark Jones from Motorpoint and Laura Shoaf MD Transport West Midlands

Team appointed to lead scrappage initiative

Work has begun on Birmingham’s e Clean Air Zone Vehicle Scrappage and Travel Scheme. Motorpoint, the UK’s largest independent car retailer, which has branches in Aston and Oldbury, was recently selected by Birmingham City Council to help deliver the £10m scheme.  

People who work in the zone and earn less than £30,000 per annum, will now be able to scrap their vehicle with Motorpoint. In exchange, they will receive £2,000 credit towards a compliant vehicle from Motorpoint or £2,000 in a ‘mobility’ credit to use on public transport via a Swift Card with Transport for West Midlands (TfWM).

The Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone goes live on June 1, 2021. From this date the owners of vehicles that do not meet the emission standards of the Clean Air Zone will be subject to a daily fee of £8 to enter the zone.  The Clean Air Zone is an area of Birmingham city centre inside the A4540 Middleway (but not the Middleway itself).

Kevin Cartwright, General Manager of Motorpoint Birmingham and Oldbury, said: “We’re delighted to see the Clean Air Zone Vehicle Scrappage and Travel Scheme go live and with it the opportunity to further reduce the levels of nitrogen dioxide emissions in the city. 

“Motorpoint has hundreds of low mileage, nearly new vehicles all under warranty available at its branches across the city – every one of which is Clean Air Zone compliant. Plus, with our Sameday Driveaway service, people can choose, test drive and buy, all in the space of a couple of hours. We would definitely recommend anyone thinking of taking advantage of the scheme to go online and start their car buying journey at motorpoint.co.uk or alternatively pop into their nearest Motorpoint branch.”

Cllr Waseem Zaffar, Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and the Environment, added: “Every year, up to 1,000 people in Birmingham are dying prematurely from conditions linked to air pollution including cancer, heart and lung disease.  This is an unacceptable situation.

Clean air should be a basic right, not a luxury and just because it is invisible it does not mean we should ignore it. The Clean Air Zone will help improve air quality within our city and the Vehicle Scrappage and Travel Credit Scheme helps tackle the source of the problem by removing the most polluting vehicles from our roads.”

Motorpoint currently has over 6,000 low mileage, nearly new cars and light commercial vehicles available from over 30 different manufacturers. Every vehicle from Motorpoint comes with the balance of manufacturer’s warranty backed by the Motorpoint Price Promise. This means Motorpoint will refund the difference to any customer within seven days of their order if they find the same car cheaper from a competitor. As a bonus, it will also give the customer £50 worth of Amazon vouchers to spend. 

Plus, as part of the company’s on-going COVID-19 safeguarding processes, all vehicle collections will be completed in specially designated areas to always guarantee social distancing while an online portal means the car buying experience is completely paperless with customers able to sign for their new car using their mobile phone. 

The full eligibility criteria and terms and conditions for the scheme are available at www.brumbreathes.co.uk

Thai time for new restaurant

Chain set to open in Sutton Coldfield

A specialist Thai restaurant chain, which prides itself on its tapas-style simplicity and ethical approach to business, is to open its doors in Sutton Coldfield.

A spokesperson for Giggling Squid, which offers ‘simple, rustic, fresh Thai food,’ confirmed the company is set to move into Mulberry Walk in Mere Green.

It will join a diverse group of restaurants operating in Mulberry Walk and Mere Green, with a specialist offering of Thai food.

It will take over the former Gustos restaurant which closed last year, subject to planning approval.

Giggling Squid opened its first restaurant in 2009 and currently operate over 35 restaurants, including an establishment in Harborne, Birmingham, employing around 900 employees who are all directly employed rather than agency staff.

The brand founded by husband and wife Andrew and Pranee Laurillard,  prides itself on serving ‘staggeringly good Thai food.’

Pranee said: “My husband and I sat in the basement of a tiny, tiny fisherman’s cottage (now our Brighton restaurant!) way back in 2002 and pulled together our first Thai Tapas menu.

” Our idea was to cook simple, rustic, fresh Thai food. We wanted a menu that people could eat like they do at home. In Thailand, mealtimes are all about lots of dishes that everyone shares.”

The opening date has not been confirmed yet, but all of its other venues will open for dine-in guests on Monday 17th May. A typical selection of what it offers can be found here

The group say it is proud to its ethical manner and works to key values such as integrity, quality and treating everyone fairly and this ethos runs through our business decisions including employment policies and supply chain management.

In a statement on its website, Giggling Squid says: “We have long-standing, close relationships with suppliers and prioritise quality and provenance. We continue to monitor suppliers that we believe may present high modern slavery risks in our supply chain.

“We are committed to continuously improving our practices to eliminate any slavery and human trafficking in the supply chain and to act ethically and with integrity in all business relationships.

“Over the course of the next financial year we will be implementing new policies, training and key performance indicators to help us identify, prevent and mitigate any risks of modern slavery or human trafficking in relation to new and existing suppliers and in relation to our own operations.”

A statement from Gustos said COVID-19 has had a significant impact on its business, like many in the industry, and it had to make the incredibly tough decision to close four of its restaurants in order to protect the future of Gusto.

.

Pubs back in business … mostly

Sutton Coldfield opens up as restrictions lifted

“While the new ways of working have been a little challenging, the rewards have far outweighed the negatives.”

Those are the optimistic words of a Sutton Coldfield pub manager whose premises enjoyed a better than expected return to business than anticipated.

For Clare Moran, manager at The Crown in Four Oaks, it’s so far so good.

But into the second week of latest lifting of lockdown restrictions and it would appear the glass is half full, certainly as far as the pubs in Sutton are concerned. With many keeping their doors shut and those that are open operating with restricted hours.

While many celebrated better-than-expected business thanks mainly to the fine weather, which is expected to continue, pubgoers returned to release months of pent-up demand, eager to get out for a meal or just a couple of pints during the continuing fine weather. Things appear to have slowed after the initial rush during the Easter break, but pubs are still busy.

Clare is delighted to be back in business. She said: “We were over the moon when Boris announced his roadmap out of lockdown and that we could begin to serve the great folks of Four Oaks again.

“It has certainly been busier than we anticipated and I think this is down to the nation’s confidence in the vaccine scheme and the measures we have in place to protect our team and guests. People trust their local, it’s ‘home from home’.

“It’s important to remember we are publicans not politicians, we must follow and enforce the guidelines, which we do, but we still have to ensure our guests enjoy our hospitality, albeit safely.”

Clare with customers enjoying the sun at The Crown

“Initially, the company I work for, only had plans to open around 200 pubs, but as we are proving more and more successful, they now have plans to open more pubs before the re-opening of our indoor areas.

“I’m optimistic that lockdown life is over, I have faith that the majority of people know and will follow the guidelines set for us.”

The boost in trade could also have been helped by the number of pubs that remained closed, with many choosing to sit it out until the next round of restrictions are lifted next month.

Many are also geared to to providing carvery-like menus which mean customers would not be allowed onto the premises to serve their own food.

A straw poll of the general area around showed up to half of pubs remained closed.

The reopening of non-essential shops, pubs, hairdressers and gyms and other venues was blessed with fine weather as those businesses appeared to being doing a roaring trade.

One barber shop owner in Four Oaks, Graham Whitehouse, said he was snowed under with demand. He usually took booking a couple of days in advance, but was fully booked initially.

Graham, who has been at the premises at Walsall Road for nearly 50 years, said: “It was manic. We had loads of bookings in the first week, but in the second week it levelled off again.

“Everyone was keen to get haircut.”

But retail business was also on a roll with one observer describing the re-opening as a carnival atmosphere and the first day reminiscent of VE Day celebrations.

The next round of lifting restriction is due on May 17, Covid cases permitting, when people will be allowed back inside hospitality venues.

Lidl a step nearer to completion

The view from what will be the car park for the new Lidl in Mere Green

Work is gathering pace on the new Lidl supermarket being built in Mere Green.

The roof is now on with brickwork in place, filling in the steel skeleton of the new building. The car parking area, seen from the picture above is now laid with just final resurfacing before the opening of the store in a matter of weeks.

The store looks to be on schedule for completion by the end of the spring, but the German owned store are tight-lipped about the opening date and how many jobs will be created.

The new supermarket will on the site of the former industrial site in Mere Green Road, which has lain derelict for more than 10 years.

The store has not met with universal approval with fears of traffic chaos, further exacerbated by new of a new Aldi store set to be built on the old Waitrose site on Belwell Lane.

It does seem inevitable there will be a big increase in traffic on the busy stretch of road, with Mulberry Walk virtually fully open with gym, shops like Poundland, bars and restaurants, together with existing supermarkets Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer. With a busy garage also at Mere Green island, it looks like delays will be on the way.

Raising a glass to the great outdoors

The Butlers Arms has created a marquee which will complement the decking areas
Pubs and hospitality venues show versatility for big reopening

As hospitality venues in Sutton prepare to tentatively come out of lockdown on April 12, pubs and restaurants are coming up with some ingenious solutions to the problem of eating and drinking outside.

From that date hospitality venues will be allowed to serve people outdoors and there will be no need for customers to order a substantial meal with alcoholic drinks and no curfew, although customers must order, eat and drink while seated (‘table service’), as before the last hospitality closure in October. 

Wider social contact rules will apply in all these settings to prevent indoor mixing between different households.

It will be a welcome return to business for hospitality venues, with many having gone to the wall and others surviving through grants, loans and the use of the Job Retention Scheme (furlough).

Now they hope to be back for good with a return to full opening on May 17, providing there is no further surge in Covid-19 cases.

To cope with this, pubs in particular are adapting their premises to allow groups of people to drink and dine together when the weather is poor

These include these of shelters, which look like kiosks used at the Birmingham German markets, seen at the Crown at Four Oaks and the Hardwick Arms at Streetly and strengthened open marquees, like at the Butlers Arms on Lichfield Road, covered outdoor areas, like The Bracebridge in Sutton Park and some, turning their gardens into the equivalent of a German beer garden, like the Town House in Sutton Coldfield Town centre, similar to those seen at Munich’s Oktoberfest.

It is anticipated there will be a huge rush and many venues are contacting customers through the use of apps to invite them back and book a table where available.

The team at the Bulters Arms said on their Facebook page: “Have a sneak peak at our menu for The Butlers Outdoors… We’re not taking bookings for outside tables. Tables will be available on a strictly first come, first serve basis. We can’t wait to welcome you all back on April 12th (hopefully 🤞).”

Other indoor locations to open on May 17 include indoor entertainment venues such as cinemas and children’s play areas; the rest of the accommodation sector, including hotels, hostels and B&Bs; and indoor adult group sports and exercise classes.

 The government will also allow some larger performances and sporting events in indoor venues. In the largest outdoor seated venues, where crowds can be spread out, up to 10,000 people will be able to attend.

By that point hospitality in Sutton and across the country will be hoping to be fully back in business by June 21. All dates are subject to change, depending on any sign of a further wave of coronavirus infection.  

Wedding fayre launched

Sutton Coldfield Town Hall to host virtual event

Sutton Coldfield Town hall is to launch a virtual wedding fayre to help locked down engaged couples plan their big day.
The online event, to be streamed from 10.30am this Saturday 27 March, is part of a relaunch of wedding services at the town hall, which received a business grant in 2020 to develop wedding services during the pandemic. The £40,000 project included a £30,000 grant from Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership. Under the ‘Pivot and Prosper’ scheme, it was able to decorate key areas, upgrade digital marketing and install wedding streaming cameras as well as pay for sales and planning staff to improve services.
The virtual fayre, streamed and then stored on the venue website, will be hosted by Jane Dayus-Hinch, local wedding expert and host of the Canadian series ‘Wedding SOS’, which is currently being streamed on Pluto TV and YouTube.
There will be advice and features from Midlands Wedding Caterer of the Year – Caviar and Chips and Midlands Asian Wedding Awards winner, The Juci Luci Cake Company. They will be joined by Sutton experts Floral Jazz and bespoke celebrant Carol Joy.

Included in the 30 suppliers featured will be specialist in South Asian weddings, Arum Javed from Sovereignty Event Management and local five-star company Nothing But Wedding Cars.
The Town Hall’s Hannah Matthews has produced the project, and as a wedding dress and tailoring specialist, she will be giving tips for all members of the wedding party. Filmed by digital specialist Cormac Wade, it marks the official launch of the venue’s new services. A sales team, led by Leyanne Jarvis and Judith Howard, is already receiving renewed interest in the venue, particularly for key  dates in summer 2022.
Hannah has been working with local suppliers in the run up to the event. She said: “We have over 30 local, reputable suppliers and professionals, and after a complex and turbulent year for the wedding and events industries, we’re proud to be using our funding as a springboard for some of these fantastic businesses in the West Midlands.

 “We’re ensuring that the fayre is accessible until restrictions begin to lift, and these companies are then able to start to trade at a more normal pace, as any additional business we can direct to them will help make for a far more positive 2021.”
 To access the stream, visitors can pre-register via the venue’s Facebook events, or visit scth.org/fayre-registration, and on the day take part via the website scth.org/wedding-fayre.
Photos: Mike Wade.