Sunderland seafront pub The Pullman is back on track - and owners will try to pay off debts

NEW START: Seamus Whelan and his company Signal Box Hotel Ltd have taken over the Pullman Lodge.
NEW START: Seamus Whelan and his company Signal Box Hotel Ltd have taken over the Pullman Lodge.
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A LANDMARK venue which hit the buffers leaving a trail of debt has been re-opened by two of the businessmen who were running it when it was forced to close.

Sunderland’s famous train pub, The Pullman, in Seaburn, shut down when operating company Rosalind Leisure went into liquidation.

BACK IN BUSINESS: The Platform 5 hotel and function room are back up and running.

BACK IN BUSINESS: The Platform 5 hotel and function room are back up and running.

Three months later, two of the directors from the trouble-hit firm have set up a new company, in a bid to make the seafront venue a success.

Though Seamus Whelan and Simon Burdus admit that Rosalind Leisure has left a trail of debt, they say they have learned from those mistakes and that they are positive about new venture, Signal Box Hotel Limited.

The Pullman has been closed since December 1, after administrators Begbies Traynor were called to the venue, which has had mixed fortunes over the years, despite its prime coastal location.

“The administrators advised us as to the different routes we could take, but we decided that re-opening was for the best,” said Seamus.

People may say we should have walked away, but we didn’t want someone else coming in and benefitting from what we’ve set up.

Seamus Whelan

“People may say we should have walked away, but we didn’t want someone else coming in and benefitting from what we’ve set up.

“Or, for no one to take it over, and have a landmark venue like this become an eyesore.”

Rosalind Leisure took over the venue on a five-year lease from owners Sunderland City Council in December 2013.

Over the course of the year, they re-opened the derelict venue in stages with the hotel, the Platform 5 bar, the function room and, most recently, Carriages tea rooms.

FIRMER FOOTING: Seamus Whelan says he and his business partner will try to pay off the Pullman's previous debts.

FIRMER FOOTING: Seamus Whelan says he and his business partner will try to pay off the Pullman's previous debts.

However, they say the business began encountering problems with the spiralling costs of renovation.

Seamus said: “We encountered problems along the way with the fabric of the place. As we started renovating, the building began showing its age and we found ourselves over-stretched.

“There was a concentration of things at the end that went wrong.

“We had problems with the kitchen, the electrics, heating, ventilation and lighting. It was gobbling up more and more money.

“Attempts are being made to pay debts where possible, but that will be from personal funds.”

The financial problems meant restaurant bookings could not be honoured and people were turning up at the venue only to find it closed.

Seamus said: “We refunded Christmas bookings and we were able to honour all the wedding bookings.

“Yes, people lost confidence, but I believe that’s returning and we have 30 functions booked for this year.

“We wanted to make sure we’re not disappointing people, brides in particular, for what is a hugely-sensitive thing.

“We are on a much firmer footing now, we don’t have those set-up costs now and we are hoping to trade successfully because of this.”

Simon said: “It is a much-loved venue. People have so many memories here. People come in all the time who’ve been to weddings here, had their first date here, even the guy who painted the original beams was here the other day.

“I think everyone buys into the place and realises it’s a case of use it or lose it.”

Events at the newly re-opened venue include a monthly comedy night, quiz night and live music night.

Though Platform 5, the hotel and function room are back up and running, Carriages tea rooms is not set to re-open until the spring.