A BUSINESSWOMAN is breathing new life into a derelict city centre pub.
Elsie Dyson has re-opened the former Vestry pub, in Fawcett Street, as The Old Vestry Tearooms, after the once-popular watering hole lay derelict for a decade.
The mum-of-four, from Mill Hill, said: “My mam and dad met in this place when she was a barmaid. That wasn’t what made me want to open a business here, but the place has history. Everyone my age has memories of The Vestry.”
The large tearooms, which serves local speciality teas and home-made snacks, occupies the site of the former pub as well as the old Peter Heron’s estate agents shop and still has many of the pub’s old features.
Elsie, who spent six weeks renovating the rooms, said: “It had to be called The Old Vestry Tearooms, it couldn’t be anything else. So much of Sunderland and its pubs have been destroyed and I wanted to keep a bit of it.
“I decided on a tearoom because I think it’s something Sunderland needs. I don’t think it could have opened as a pub again because these are not the kind of pubs people want these days, but it’s great to see it being used again.”
She added: “We’ve only been open two weeks and we’ve had such a positive response, we’ve even had to turn people away because we’ve been too busy.”
As well as opening the tearooms, Elsie is using the rooms as a gallery space and vintage curios shop and has asked local artist Ray Bradshaw, from Moorside, to exhibit his pieces which are also for sale.
Ray said: “Like most people in Sunderland I have memories of The Vestry, I remember it being the only male-only pub upstairs in the ’70s.
“When Elsie first approached me I wasn’t sure about exhibiting in a tearoom as my work is usually displayed in galleries in Newcastle, but once I saw what she’d done with the place, I wanted to be part of it. It’s a great business.”