TENS of thousands of pounds have been ploughed into converting a bar at Sunderland Empire into a top-flight luxury lounge.
The former Vesta Tilley bar, named after the vaudeville star who opened the Empire in 1907, is now home to the Ambassador Lounge.
Part of a chain of bars which Empire operators Ambassador Theatre Group open in their best-performing theatres, it boasts plush bespoke furnishings, a cloakroom, waiter service and a premium drinks menu.
The theatre group has spent £50,000 on the new addition, which has transformed a little-used part of the historic venue.
To gain access to the lounge, which seats 32, theatre-goers have to pay a minimum of £15 on top of the price of their ticket.
Empire manager Ben Phillips says it’s a chance to offer Empire patrons a more exclusive experience.
“Ambassador Theatre Group only instal these lounges in venues that can sustain this level of business,” explained Ben. “With the calibre of shows we’ve got we’ve shown that we can sell premium tickets.
“People have always said things like this wouldn’t sell in Sunderland, but some people do want that value-added experience. Our bars can get very busy, but this offers a one-on-one service.
“Plus, it only seats 32, so it never gets too busy.”
Early bookings for the lounge have been strong with people paying for access when visiting the theatre for its current show, War Horse.
Ben said: “People really like it, it’s a lovely bar to sit in.”
The lounge is the latest success story for the theatre which has recently announced a record-breaking year of sales for West End shows including Lion King, Jersey Boys, War Horse and Wicked.
Win a luxury night at the theatre
WE’VE teamed up with Sunderland Empire to give away a set of four tickets for a box, plus admittance to the Ambassador Lounge.
The tickets are for Evita, starring Marti Pellow, on June 18.
The prize also includes four Red Label Passes to the lounge (including welcome drink, nibbles, entry to the lounge and complimentary cloakroom).
The prize is worth £192.
To be in with a chance of winning, answer this question: which band is Marti the lead singer for?
Fill in your answer on the coupon and return it to Evita competition, Katy Wheeler, Echo House, Pennywell Industrial Estate, SR4 9ER.
Alternatively, email your answer to Katy.Wheeler@jpress.co.uk.
Closing date: May 21.