It’s time to take our hats off to those on Westside who have kept trading despite COVID-19

Westside business leader MIKE OLLEY acknowledges the hospitality sector’s lockdown challenges and shines a light on some top operators who are putting up a good fight.

There is no doubt about it: for those who operate as an agent of the capitalist war machine, life is tough, very tough.

That’s never been truer than now as we head for whole a year of Corona disruption. If you work with the government, or the like, in some soft cushy number you may have heard about “how tough” matters are. But whilst dining off the table at the house-of-plenty, all you government or executive agency workers should cast out a thought for those not so lucky.

I should just declare an interest: I myself dine off the table of the house of plenty. Yet daily I work with those who struggle and have been struggling over the last year. And I genuinely feel guilty about it now and then.

For close to two decades, I’ve rubbed shoulders with those who are currently under the cosh. Good decent people have lost their work, many others on furlough. Let me make the point that if you work in the Westside area its because you are good. No, sorry, correction … bloody good at what you do. Part of the make up of being bloody good is your passion and appetite for work. Take that away and you get some very unhappy bunnies. Yet hold the line guys, vaccines abound and we are getting back to normal.

But irrespective of the future, let’s look at some of the outstanding and enterprising individuals who are doing their very best to keep the ships afloat. Aktar Islam is no stranger to almost anyone who understands food in the city. As one of our Michelin-starred chefs he opened up Pulperia in Brindleyplace. But three months later came lockdown one.

Aktar could have moaned and groaned, pulled the duvet over himself and retreated with the perfect defence. Yet defeat is not in his vocabulary. It’s reduce the overheads and back to the frontline for him. Aktar has put together a delicious way to enjoy his food on your own dining table, and you should take a look at Feast your eyes on his mouth-watering delights. There’s another service operated from Aktar’s other venue at Opheem, on Summer Row, which is well worth a click and collect.

Yet you know Aktar is not alone. Can I mention Sam Morgan who established Craft adjacent to Brindleyplace? He has built a classy restaurant, listed in the Michelin guide no less. I dined there before lockdown two, and the menu was interesting, uncomplicated and the quality of the food knocked my socks off. We dined in one of the pods adjacent to the waterfront at the end of the ICC’s Mall. Sam can’t open his restaurant but is working hard, I know, to keep the money rolling in on other culinary projects. Good luck mate, and see you post Lockdown.

I would also like to take my hat off to a very old pal of mine called Mark the florist at Ethos in Brindleyplace. I have known Mark since he was an apprentice at Avon Diecasting. Yes, we are both off the tools. The blue-collar roots makes him as tough as he is. He’s now one of Birmingham’s most established florists, and he isn’t giving up. Battling away online he is doing well, and he’ll keep going by business guile and hard work. If you’ve got a loved one you want to show you love, Mark is your man at You can shop online or click and collect.

Those in the capitalist war machine are battling damn hard, and it would be unfair not to mention the Park Regis Birmingham, the hotel at the top of Broad Street. This is a privately funded operation, and the guy who runs the show is John Angus. Hard as nails is John, so don’t tell anyone I told you this: treat him well, be honest and upfront, and he’s as nice as pie and a totally reasonable bloke. He has not missed an opportunity to trade. He has done his level best to keep Park Regis going, be it by providing accommodation to essential workers to an inclusive package for those in social need. John has done well, really well.

For me, therefore, it has been comfortable eating at the house of plenty. It gives me the capacity to admire those around me who battle hard fighting their corner, and who I warrant will continue to do so. I am as proud as punch of you all and more.

Now for those of you who play the gender politics and may observe I haven’t mentioned any women, please take a look at some of my other blogs where I don’t mention blokes. Bless you.

One thought on “It’s time to take our hats off to those on Westside who have kept trading despite COVID-19

  1. Hear hear Mike! And for us other independents, The Dentist at Liberty Place, still licensed to drill during lockdown and Covid secure. Not even any rates relief for us as we have fallen through the cracks but still here for our patients who desperately need us. Dental care IS healthcare. Thanks for championing all of us in WestSide, we appreciate it xxx

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