Regulars rally to repair fire-hit Sunderland pub

Landlord Colin Burlinson, centre in check shirt, with regulars celebrating the Howard Arms reopening after an arson attack a week ago.
Landlord Colin Burlinson, centre in check shirt, with regulars celebrating the Howard Arms reopening after an arson attack a week ago.
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AN arson-hit pub has reopened after friends and regulars pitched in to repair the damage.

Colin Burlinson, 59, landlord of the Howard Arms in Roker Avenue, was devastated when thieves broke in to steal cash and set fire to the bar on their way out.

Fire damaged Howard Arms in  Roker Avenue  Sunderland thsi morning.

Fire damaged Howard Arms in Roker Avenue Sunderland thsi morning.

But the popular boozer is now up and running after the community rallied round to get it back serving pints.

“It just warms my heart. It was great,” said Colin, who took over the pub two years ago.

“Everybody pitched in, I had 12 to 15 people in here every day working on the place. All I had to do was pay for the materials we needed.”

The arsonists struck on November 18 when they broke in through a window and stole charity coins as well as wages from behind the bar, and cash from the jukebox and gaming machine.

Before fleeing, the thieves started a blaze behind the bar which spread up the wall, across the ceiling and to the curtains.

Luckily the pub was empty, and the three fire crews called out were able to quickly extinguish the blaze – but not before the pub’s fittings and fixtures had suffered severe damage.

Colin was forced to close, missing out on crucial match-day trade on the Saturday.

“I was devastated,” he said. “This place is my livelihood. I had to start again from scratch.

“It wasn’t so much the money they took, it was having to close for a week. We’re a small business. But friends, family – everyone all came out and we we’re back open a week later.”

Colin said the pub was his pride and joy and while it didn’t make him rich, running the pub meant everything to him.

He said: “I find a wage every week and that’s about it. I think the world of people round here and that’s why I do it.”

The bar needed a new ceiling, blinds and Colin had to buy three new televisions. But he said he didn’t have to pay for any workmen.

His willing volunteers scraped the blackened walls, and tidied up, as well as offering what skills they had.

Friend and regular Sean Dickson, 42, a self-employed painter and decorator, said: “Everyone’s just got stuck in together. I papered the ceiling.

“It’s a good bunch – on the opening night everybody seemed to get quite merry.”

Twitter: @Pressbench