Successful hospitality group to open gin bar at former Roker toilet block

A hospitality group who’ve had success with ventures including the world’s smallest gin bar are breathing new life into a disused building overlooking Roker Pier.

Monday, 18th January 2021, 12:38 pm
Updated Monday, 18th January 2021, 12:38 pm

The Davis Family, which owns and operates Durham’s Tin of Sardines, has announced plans to bring its successful gin emporium and restaurant concept to the city, with the opening of a new venue at Roker.

The family has agreed a 10-year lease with Sunderland City Council for the former Roker Toilet Block on Pier View - adjacent to the Bungalow Café – and is set to invest more than £60,000 into the refurbishment of the site, creating 10 jobs.

This will follow £250,000 investment from Sunderland City Council, assisted by grant funding courtesy of The Coastal Communities Fund, to ensure the premises are ready for a tenant to move into.

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Pier View public toilets on Roker seafront is being re-developed by Lord Trevor Davis and his son Ben into a 'Tin of Sardines' gin bar.

The income from the lease will support the Sunderland Seafront Trust, which operates the Roker Pier and Lighthouse tours and the new income will help it to organise a range of seafront events and activities.

Founded by father and son business partners Lord Trevor and Ben Davis, the pair opened the first Tin of Sardines venue on Durham’s historic Elvet Bridge in 2017, with the venue holding just 16 people and stocking over 200 varieties of gin.

The concept proved such a success that the pair opened a second venue in Trevor’s hometown of Poole in Dorset, renovating a former newsagents and contributing to the conservation and restoration of the town’s famed shoreline.

Ben, who’s also operated The Copt Hill in Houghton in the past, said: “The Tin of Sardines business has been a real success since we first opened our doors in Durham three and a half years ago and we’d been mulling over a third venue for some time until we saw the former Roker Toilet Block hit the market.

Directors Lord Trevor Richard Davis, Benjamin Richards Davis and Bethany Jayne Hardy.

“As someone born and bred in Sunderland and as a family embedded in the region’s hospitality industry for decades, we knew this was too good of an opportunity to turn down and were sold on the idea of bringing the concept to the city as soon as we set eyes on it."

The plans for the redevelopment of the unit – which the family hopes to have open by summer 2021 - include the construction of an open kitchen, a hanging garden terrace overlooking the sea and the offer of an array of cuisines, from breakfasts and coffee mornings to evening brunches and locally sourced seafood and steaks by night.

He added: “With a garden terrace to the rear and an open kitchen and bar, the venue will offer some of the city’s finest views while serving up some of the finest locally-sourced produce and some of the world’s most sought-after gins.

“We can’t thank Sunderland City Council enough for giving us this unique opportunity and we are looking forward to working with local traders as we craft our new offering.”

The Pier View toilets will become a gin bar, with food available too

Sunderland City Council has spent more than £10m on seafront regeneration and improvements over recent years, including the opening of Stack, the ongoing construction of the Seaburn Inn and a host of new businesses on Marine Walk.

Councillor Rebecca Atkinson, Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Member for Dynamic City, added: “We are absolutely delighted to be welcoming Tin of Sardines to the city and it fills us with even more pride to see a local family returning home to invest in the city."

The lease for the building was advertised over summer 2020 through Sunderland-based commercial property surveyors Lofthouse and Partners and interest was strong with scores of bids from interested partied.

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