Disgust at Ebola-themed Halloween party in Birmingham

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BAD TASTE: Bar Risa’s entrance for the Ebola-themed Halloween party

A CITY centre bar in Birmingham is at the heart of a second controversy in less than a month after hosting an Ebola-themed Halloween party, sparking disgust and repulsion within the African Caribbean community.

Bar Risa in Broad Street may now face an investigation from the council’s licensing committee, although the authority has already stated: “While we understand that many people may find this recent event distasteful, this would not amount in law to a breach of the venue’s licence.”

The controversial student party night was staged on Wednesday (Oct 30) and saw staff serving drinks in hazmat-style contamination suits, while the bar’s exterior was decked out with fake biohazard tape.

Material promoting the event had stated that the immediate area had been “infected” by the deadly Ebola disease and the World Health Organisation (WHO) was advising students to enter the bar for “decontamination and quarantine.”

Bar Risa has apologised and conceded that the event was “a huge error of judgement,” pledging to donate all profits to the charity Doctors Without Borders.

In a statement it said: “The event was run by a third party promoter and we can only apologise for such a huge error of judgement on our part in letting them run the event.”

On October 11 the bar was in the media spotlight for agreeing with West Midlands Police to host members of the English Defence League (EDL) before they staged a rally in the city centre.

Again, they stressed that all proceeds from opening the bar for the EDL would go to charity – this time the Midlands Air Ambulance.

Desmond Jaddoo, founder of Birmingham Empowerment Forum, has written to the city council’s licensing chair councillor Barbara Dring demanding an urgent and immediate investigation into the possibility of reviewing the bar’s licence.

He has also called a public meeting to discuss the issue at 7pm on Monday (Nov 3) at the African Caribbean Millennium Centre, 339 Dudley Road, Birmingham.

He said: “There is no excuse for Bar Risa this time and the city council must act now. It shows a complete lack of respect for the black community because it is making a joke out of black people dying – this is totally unacceptable.

“I am sure if Ebola was an issue that affected the gay community or people with disabilities, this event would never have taken place. It’s time for our community to take a stand against this type of discrimination.”

In a letter to councillor Dring he says: “Clearly, Ebola has affected the African continent and black African people have been the majority of the victims of this deadly disease. Hence, it begs the question: why is Bar Risa treating this as a joke?

“At a time in Birmingham when the black (African and Caribbean) community face issues surrounding a lack of engagement and disaffection, this only fuels the divide in this city.”

However, the city council’s response, while saying the event would not amount in law to a breach of the venue’s licence, added: “The Licensing Act enables anyone to call for a premises licence to be reviewed. However, the grounds for reviews must fall within one or more of the four licensing objectives contained within the Licensing Act 2003.

“These are: the prevention of crime and disorder; the prevention of public nuisance; public safety, and the protection of children from harm.

“If Mr Jaddoo, or anyone else, wishes to make a formal complaint, this can be done via licensing@birmingham.gov.uk. Guidance for people who want to ask for licence reviews can be found at the Home Office website at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/alcohol-licensing-reviews.”

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