Restaurateur Alex Claridge has been appointed as the region’s new Night Time Economy Advisor by the West Midlands Combined Authority’s (WMCA).
In his role, Alex will act as a champion for the region’s pubs, clubs, bars, concert venues, theatres and restaurants as they look to rebuild following an incredibly difficult few years.
The night-time economy is mission critical to the success of the West Midlands but has faced an onslaught of challenges in recent years, having been particularly hard hit by the Covid pandemic, the fallout from Brexit, and the implications of the ongoing cost of living crisis. Alex will help bring businesses together with wider stakeholders to lobby for, and achieve, investment and action.
As part of his role, Alex will act as a strategic advisor to to help the WMCA and local authorities create a thriving and safe night-time economy.
Born and raised in the West Midlands, Alex has been part of the region’s hospitality scene for over a decade and is currently the chef-patron of The Wilderness restaurant, as well as the owner of cocktail bar and creative studio, Atelier Birmingham.
He has long been a vocal advocate for the sector, spearheading campaigns for sector support throughout the Covid pandemic and beyond, alongside working as a consultant for a number of local hospitality businesses and projects.
On his appointment, Alex said: “It is a privilege to offer my time and energy to the city and wider region that has been so very kind to me over the years. Our region would be a very dull place indeed without the continued existence and evolution of the many spaces and places that animate our evenings.
“It takes a certain talent, character, and energy to work in or run the many diverse businesses that make our evenings memorable. I want to harness that creativity and tenacity to fight the good fight. For many of us operating across the broad banner of the night-time economy, the tigers have found us.
“I know many of my peers today are cornered – rising energy prices, staff shortages, strikes, rapidly increasing costs, and the rest of it. With such talent in our region, it is my good fortune to be asked to serve as the West Midland’s first Night Time Economy Advisor and it is my promise that I will fight alongside you to achieve change. We will fight present challenges together, and we will celebrate the dynamic future I still believe in for hospitality together.”
Julie Nugent, WMCA’s executive director for economic delivery, skills and communities, said “Alex’s role will play a huge part in the creation of jobs for local people in hospitality venues across the region and we want to ensure that he will look towards generating a buzz for the already exciting nightlife in the West Midlands, as well coming up with ideas to attract new visitors that will bring in the custom for our local businesses to thrive.
“He has already shown to be a huge advocate for the West Midland’s pubs, clubs, bars, concert venues, theatres and restaurants and it will be exciting to see him use his voice to get the best for all businesses and the people who need them.”
Alex was chosen for the role following a WMCA recruitment process that also involved Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and chair of the WMCA.
In his part-time, voluntary, role, Alex will work closely with Lawrence Barton, Birmingham City Council’s night-time champion, who will also now have a closer working relationship with the WMCA and access to its resources as the authority ramps up its support for the hospitality and nightlife sectors as part of its Plan for Growth.
As well as working alongside the WMCA’s Hospitality Skills Taskforce chair Glynn Purnell, and the West Midlands Hospitality and Tourism Advisory Board which he will be co-opted onto, Alex will also have a close relationship with the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) trade body.
The NTIA has already helped establish night-time advisors in London, Greater Manchester, and Bristol, and have been instrumental in working with the WMCA and the Mayor to get the West Midlands role established.
Michael Kill, the CEO of the NTIA, said: “We welcome the announcement today that the the WMCA will be appointing Alex Claridge as the New Night Time Economy Advisor for the region.
“The NTIA has been an advocate for this role for many years, campaigning for every city and town across the country to have a nightlife champion, in a bid to strengthen the network of representation and promote the important role the industry plays in the recovery of the country and the ongoing economic success of our communities across the UK.”
“We are looking forward to continuing our work with the WMCA and Alex, actively helping to support and develop the role within the region, as well as playing a part in promoting and shaping nightlife across the UK.”