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LATE NIGHT LINE-UP

28-01-2010

News that a landmark Birmingham cafe has been forced to curtail its opening hours following disorder last year has Dave Woodhall wondering about the city’s lack of late night eating establishments. Is it too much to expect to eat well after dark?

The legendary Mr Egg has had the hours in which it can open cut following a disturbance last November, when 13 people were injured after concentrated vinegar was sprayed during a fight.

It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke but it was, of course, potentially serious. Three people were badly hurt and two arrested after the fight. As a result police sought to get Mr Egg’s late food entertainment licence revoked and the city council’s Licensing Committee agreed, which means that pending an appeal, you can’t get served there after 11pm.

To my mind it’s all a bit draconian to allow the police to close a cafe at all, never mind after one incident. After all, fights break out regularly in pubs but as far as I’m aware no venue on Broad Street or elsewhere in the city centre has been forced to close or had its hours curtailed. It strikes me that yet again, the police are going for the easy option – if the premises are closed they don’t have to be policed no matter how many people are inconvenienced.

The news also got me wondering. How many late-night food venues are left in Birmingham city centre or further afield?

Even the ubiquitous curry houses tend to close earlier these days. There’s the Royal Bengal on Smallbrook Queensway (a particular favourite of our editor himself, I believe) and the legendary Manzil’s in Digbeth can be relied upon to stay open almost as long as you want but apart from that, it’s kebab and burger time again.

Am I expecting too much, to be able to get something decent to eat on the occasions when late trains or nights out lead to me wandering through the city centre as midnight approaches? Is an opening going begging for a young culinary entrepreneur or is the demand just not there?

I know calls to try to make Birmingham a genuinely 24 hour city have usually fallen on deaf ears, and probably with good reason. Weekends are another matter, but during the week there aren’t enough people who haven’t got to get up in the morning.

We don’t attract masses of tourists and the student population predominantly lives in the suburbs. From Monday to Thursday the city centre still resembles a ghost town after the pubs close but I’m sure that if someone opened a decent cafe or even if a branch of Subway stayed open late, they’d do decent trade. Who knows, it might even start to encourage more people to patronise the area.

Anyway, please correct me. If you know of anywhere that’s still open after, say, eleven o’clock and isn’t either that shop on Smallbrook Queensway or the burger van outside Snow Hill station, tell us about it.

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