Salmon pink suits, artificial turf, fun masks and party outfits – the colourful characters in Southside and Chinatown are determined not to let the Covid-19 crisis get the better of them.
On Super Saturday after lockdown, the one in four businesses which felt ready to return after 12 weeks away were supported by 5,000 revellers all looking for nothing better than simply a nice day out.
And bosses reckon that the quarter’s barbers and hairdressers were so busy they trimmed 1,500 barnets.
Those customers will always remember where they were when they were Shorn on the Fourth of July…
How the day unfolded
The day before lockdown ended, Eden bar on Sherlock Street was hit with the bombshell news that it would not be able to open at 12.01 as planned.
It has been pre-booking tables with drinks included (£15) for days to ensure its regulars had a good time.
But on Friday morning, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that pubs could only open from 6am so Eden then announced it would open at 2pm on Saturday afternoon instead.
Like its sister Wetherspoon pubs in the city centre The Briar Rose and The Square Peg and The Soloman Cutler and Figure of Eight on Broad Street which had an equally well behaved Saturday night, The JD Wetherspoon pub The Dragon Inn on Hurst Street threw open its doors at 8am and soon the quarter was beginning to gently buzz with activity again.
The giant elephant in the Southside room is the fact that the Birmingham Hippodrome will remain closed until at least November and, with 62 redundancies threatened the impact might be felt for months if not years after that.
Many local businesses rely on the thousands of people the Hipp brings in to the area every week.
But those which did reopen on Saturday were glad they did.
Lawrence Barton, owner of a string of bars and nightclubs in Central Birmingham, including The Loft and The Village Inn, said: “Despite the tough trading conditions hospitality venues like mine are having to face as a result of coronavirus, I was deeply encouraged by the level of trade received given the strict, but necessary social distancing requirements.
“In spite of restrictions on customer numbers, volume of music, social distancing and a a strict no bar service, one of our venues had takings that were in line with those of an average Saturday pre-lockdown.
“Meanwhile, despite takings at The Village Inn being down on pre-lockdown levels, these were in line with our forecasts.
“Reports in the media and elsewhere of widespread flouting of public health rules and requirements were not reflected here in Birmingham.
“I am confident that yesterday marks the start of a long road to recover for both the sector and our economy as a whole.”
Southside BID manager Julia Robinson said: “Super Saturday was a great day in the end, really, really lovely – maybe we will now see the area becoming much more popular in the daytime than we ever thought.
“Perhaps our busiest time will now become 3pm in the afternoon instead of 3am in the morning!
“The bars were busy all day and The Village stayed open till 3/4am.
“We had no trouble and I was really proud of all of our customers who queued up patiently for everything from having their temperatures checked to getting in, to hand sanitiser, ordering and so on – some came with umbrellas and I’ve never seen that before.
“I think people realise things really are going to be different – instead of going out at night in skimpy outfits thinking they are going to be in a hot club, they might have to take a coat to keep warm outside, even in summer time.
“If we do have tables outside, then clearly it’s a problem when it rains.”
The Chung Ying Chinese restaurant also opened on Wrottesley Street to allow private parties to test out its new artificially-turfed terrace, but it won’t open to the public until Friday, July 10.
The LGBT community
At the heart of the Southside and Chinatown area are its people.
Many of those who love the area go to be part of the ‘Gay Village’ social scene and Julia says they have found lockdown really difficult.
“The LGBT community is so lovely,” she says.
“Many have been isolating alone and without their families, so lockdown has hit that community really hard.
“Everyone was just so please to be back out again enjoying themselves.”