Batgirl backlash as independent Merchant City venue loses out on road closures

The owner of a Merchant City venue says he has lost thousands of pounds in revenue following road and footpath closures during the filming of the new Batgirl movie in Glasgow.

A letter delivered to all residents and businesses in the area from American Night Productions states that Glassford and South Fredrick streets will be closed from Friday February 11 until Saturday February 19 while filming takes place at the former Jigsaw building on Ingram Street. It adds that access “will be maintained for deliveries, residents and pedestrians”.

Footpath closures along Ingram and Glassford streets are also in effect from Tuesday February 1 to Saturday February 19, with an alternative routes “clearly signed for pedestrians”.

However, Liam Orr of the Soulsa Bar & Kitchen on Glassford Street said customers have “literally [been] directed away from my premises” during some of his busiest trading periods, while deliveries and refuse collection have also been disrupted.

Takings were down by 70 per cent on the first Friday of street closures, he said, with the venue empty and closing at 10.30 on the night. Trading on Saturday – Soulsa’s busiest day of the week – was “the same”.

HeraldScotland: Footpath and road closures along Glassford Street. Photo: Liam Orr, SoulsaFootpath and road closures along Glassford Street. Photo: Liam Orr, Soulsa

So far, Mr Orr estimates he has lost between £7,000 and £10,000 of custom.

“That is huge for us at this time of the year,” he said. “We had an awful December, January’s always terrible – February kind of marks a recovery period when people start to venture out again.

“I’m not going to lie, our cash reserves are low. Even at the best of times, two bad weeks or two bad weekends is difficult for us.”

Mr Orr, who employs eight people at Soulsa, added: “I’ve got rubbish piling up on my doorstep, I don’t think I’m going to get my beer delivery today, I can’t get a food delivery, I can’t get my bottle bins uplifted.

“I feel like we are particularly affected by it. We are in the eye of the storm, we are right in the middle of it – we couldn’t be any more in the middle of it if we tried, because they are using the Trades House which is upstairs from me as a changing room.”

READ MORE: ‘Record year’ for film and broadcasting in Glasgow

Batgirl and most other film and broadcasting activity in the city is facilitated by the council’s Glasgow Film Office (GFO), which acts as a one-stop shop to help with the organisation of these productions. It coordinates meetings with appropriate agencies, location owners and other council departments, and markets Glasgow as a filming location.

A spokesman for the GFO said compensation “might” be in the offing in such circumstances, but that is “a private matter” between the producers and the business affected. As such, there is “no action open” to the GFO to intervene.

According to the GFO, 2021 was a “landmark year” for film and broadcasting activity in Glasgow as work on productions such as the fifth Indiana Jones film and The Flash generated a record £42.4 million for the city’s economy. That took the total since 1997, when the GFO was established, to almost £400m.

Other productions last year included Tetris, Man & Witch, Annika, Shetland, Guilt 2, The Control Room and Screw, filmed in the Kelvin Hall for Channel 4. They join a list of other major films and broadcast series shot in Glasgow in recent years such as World War Z, Under the Skin, Outlaw King, Outlander, Succession, Still Game and Vigil.

HeraldScotland: Picture: Liam Orr, SoulsaPicture: Liam Orr, Soulsa

The economic impact of the sector in 2021 does not include the amount generated by the production of Batgirl, which will be included in this year’s total.

The letter from American Night Productions goes on to say: “During the days leading up to and surrounding our filming there will be a visible increase in activity around the area.

“We will have marshals and security present to ensure a safe thoroughfare is maintained where possible and people can still access the businesses and residences.

“However, if you are concerned about our arrangements, either prior to or on the day, please do not hesitate to reach out to a member of the team on the details below or on site and we would be happy to address any issues.”

American Night Productions has been contacted for comment.

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