A new bar is bringing a flavour of the Prohibition era to a disused basement.
Inspired by the American speakeasy bars of the ‘20s and ‘30s, Libby May’s has opened in the former Backwaters restaurant in St Thomas Street which had stood empty for around three years.
It’s the brainchild of Chris and Rachel Royal and is named after an amalgamation of their daughters’ names, Libby, nine, and Amy, eleven.
The couple already own Sam’s Bar in Sunniside, named after their 19-year-old son, and Chris says they’d been looking for a second premises in the city centre for a while before discovering the former Indian restaurant.
The bar owner said: “We’d looked at a few other sites that weren’t suitable, but we could immediately see the potential in this site as soon as we walked in. Plus, it’s just around the corner from Sam’s Bar.
“It hadn’t been occupied for around three and a half years and had been flooded, so it needed a lot of work doing. We pulled up the floors and raised the level up and completely transformed it.”
Tens of thousands of pounds have been invested in the cocktail bar, which took around three months to turn into a bar area and separate function room that has created six new jobs.
The couple, who are also parents to Daisy, five, who was born when they previously ran the Mountain Daisy, in Hylton Road, have scoured auction rooms and antique websites to find decorations for the bar, which includes period telephones, retro suitcases, cinema-style seating and images of flapper girls.
Chris said: “Because of the basement setting it really lends itself to the speakeasy theme. We’ve been open a couple of weeks now and we’ve had a great response. “People walk past the front door and don’t expect this to be down here.
“There’s a lot of new bars and restaurants opening in Sunderland at the moment, especially in Sunniside, and it’s creating a real buzz.”
The bar will be open Thursday to Saturday, but will also be open on Sunday this week for the Bank Holiday weekend.