A Michelin-star chef is threatening to sue Birmingham City Council for compensation after workmen turned the street outside his celebrated restaurant into a “bombsite”, writes Richard McComb.
Tree-planting works in Harborne High Street could have cost Turners restaurant up to £4,000 in lost festive trade, says chef patron Richard Turner.
The council said the scheme would “improve the vibrancy of the retail offer” in Harborne but conceded work had been delayed by “technical issues.”
Turner has criticised the local authority for starting the project during December, traditionally the busiest month of the year for local restaurants and shops. A large hoarding and barriers had been erected in front of his restaurant and neighbouring shops while the improvements were being carried out.
The hoardings, which have been partly removed during the temporary suspension of work, have been draped in a festive green mesh.
Mr Turner said: “It looks like Santa’s grotto. The difference is that there is no Father Christmas sitting inside it.”
Yesterday the council said the work had been halted and the contractors will return in January, prompting the chef to ask why the entire scheme could not have been carried out early next year, avoiding December altogether. This is Turners’ first Christmas trading as a Michelin star restaurant.
It won the coveted honour for its classically-inspired cuisine in January this year and the 30-cover restaurant reaped the benefits of the Michelin “bounce”.
Bookings have been strong for festive lunches. However, guests have complained about the incessant noise of hammering, drilling and bricks being cut in half just a few feet from their white-linen tables and plates of gastronomic delights.
Mr Turner said: “We are in the middle of a recession. The first thing people stop doing in a recession is getting their hair cut and going to restaurants. I’m a restaurant and there’s a hairdressers next door.”
He said he was given virtually no notice about the start of the work earlier this month and that he supported moves to boost trade in the high street by making the environment more attractive, but added: “Don’t try to improve the high street and decimate all the businesses here. It’s been madness to do this work at the busiest time of the year.”
A Birmingham City council spokesman said the tree planting work had been finished and “street furniture” would be upgraded in the new year.
He said construction work was suspended last Friday “in readiness for the influx of shoppers”.
The spokesman added: “There has been a slight delay due to technical issues and the wet weather, but once complete, the project’s long-term benefits will outweigh any recent issues.”