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Birmingham businesses ‘weary’ of restrictions even before new rules kick in

Written by on 2 November 2020

“Well – we’ll have to get used to it again won’t we?” said Vicar David Warbrick to his congregation with a sigh.

“For the next four weeks we’ll be singing from our homes,” he told the gathering at All Saints Church in King’s Heath in Birmingham.

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The vicar joked: “Who’s the guy? Dominic Cummings’ side-kick? I’ve forgotten his name?”

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Vicar David Warbrick told his congregation they’ll be ‘singing from our homes’ again

The laughter from the gathering is something they will have to go without for at least another month.

The community bond of joint worship, so valued here, is once again being switched off.

Churchgoer Diana James, 85, lives alone and is dreading another period of isolation.

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She said: “You can’t go out and meet people and I’m 85, I want to keep active as long as I can and I can’t keep waiting for the dust to fall to do the housework.

Vicar David Warbrick told his congregation they will 'have to get used to it again' as a new lockdown approaches
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We will ‘have to get used to it again’ as a new lockdown approaches, Vicar David Warbrick said

“The grass has never been cut so many times. I keep mowing and mowing.”

However, Mrs James believes the government was too slow to lock down.

“I think it is necessary, but from the beginning, day one, it’s been a right mess up made of it.

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‘They’re supposed to be the brains of the country – it’s a shambles’

“I realise and appreciate no one’s dealt with it before. But I think for the salaries they’re on, and they’re supposed to be the brains of the country, I think it’s been a shambles.”

Another worshipper, Rob Hingley, argued that the church should be allowed to remain open.

What you can and can't do after England goes into second lockdown

What you can and can’t do after England goes into second lockdown

He said: “At a time of national crisis, it seems wrong to shut down the places we come to pray.”

Whether it’s the church, the local pub or the gym – each has its argument for why it should stay open at this time.

But the government has made its choice – education, manufacturing and essential services can remain open for business – but once again it’s retail and hospitality taking a hit.

Barista Shazad Ali doesn't expect the cafe he works in to stay open
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Barista Shazad Ali doesn’t expect the cafe he works in to stay open

Cafes and restaurants can still do takeaways, but at a local coffee shop near the church, barista Shazad Ali doesn’t expect to stay open.

He said: “This business won’t make any money from doing takeout. The last lockdown we did takeaway for a week and then we shut down.

“They say it’s four weeks but really how long will this last?”

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That question is on the minds of many shop workers in King’s Heath.

Come Thursday, non-essential shops will keep the shutters down.

The furlough scheme will be extended until December but several business owners say it’s not enough to cover their overheads and one local cafe, Bloom, announced on Friday it would have to shut down.

Trade at the Station Inn has been so badly hit by the existing restrictions, the offer of extended furlough is considered a better option than staying open.

The pub has been running a food bank since March and the majority of its visitors are here for that.

Station Inn manager Darren Paul says more of his work 'is for the food bank than the pub'
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Station Inn manager Darren Paul says more of his work ‘is for the food bank than the pub’

Manager Darren Paul said: “Now more of my work is for the food bank than the pub. We’ve been open since 12 noon and the only people to come in are people picking up food for their families.

“Our business is running at 30% normal trade, with each restriction adding another blow. The rule of six, then the 10pm curfew, then families not mixing, our business just isn’t viable.”

A woman drops off items for the food bank
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A woman drops off items for the food bank

They may not be making Sunday roasts anymore nor any money, but the fact the pub has shifted 12,000 free food parcels since March is a testament to the community spirit here in Birmingham.

There is, however, also a weary acceptance that it’s just the latest instalment of a disastrous year.