First look inside new bar and pizza place Proven People in Sunderland city centre
Colourful cocktails, live DJ sets and hand-stretched pizzas are on the menu at a new bar and restaurant serving up a slice of something different for the city.
Friends Lee Forster, Paul Stewart and Elliot Towsey are well-known in the local music scene for their decades of experience in DJing and events.
Now they’ve channelled their mutual passions for good music and good food into Proven People, a new bar and restaurant in Burdon Road that’s bringing to life one of the city centre’s period properties.
Opening to the public from noon on July 2, the new business has transformed the former Victorian railway management office opposite the Museum & Winter Gardens which has stood empty for a number of years since its time as Divino’s Pizza.
Around £100,000 has been invested in creating a brand new bar, open plan kitchen, sound system, DJ booth and extensive building works whilst also making the most of the site’s original features including period wooden window frames, parquet flooring and exposed steel beams.
A new outdoor dining area at the back of the site has also been created for al fresco food and drink.
Paul, a former resident DJ at Newcastle clubbing institution Shindig, says the project has been a labour of love, in which they’ve ploughed as much care and attention into the music policy, as they have the menu.
"As friends we’d meet up and would always end up discussing how we’d like to open our own place and how we’d like to do something that wasn’t at the behest of other operators,” he said. "Music is often down the pecking order, but it’s such an important factor and sets the whole mood.”
The menu features pizzas, including a charcoal option, as well as deli boards, small plates and salads, which is served during the day with a carefully-curated playlist from DJs local and national.
On evenings, people will be able to enjoy food and drink with the backdrop of a laid back live DJ set, with the venue open until 2am on weekends.
Music will cover a broad range of genres, such as disco, funk and tracks equated with the White Isle.
Paul said: “So many places have regurgitated play lists, but we have eight days worth of music ready to go, so regulars will always hear something different.”
Head chef Leon Dodd has years of experience working in restaurants and pubs in Sunderland and say it’s great to be working in an open kitchen, where people can see him preparing the dishes.
"There’s so much happening in the city and it’s great to see,” he said. “We really want to help put Sunderland back on the scene.”
Lee is from Sunderland but in years gone by had always socialised and DJ’d in Newcastle at club nights such as Dada.
But, noticing a wave of investment and new openings in Sunderland, he says he wanted to help bring something new to his home city.
He explained: “I live nearby this site and would pass it all the time, so I’ve had my eye on it for a while. It’s an incredible space and we knew we could work with the old features to create something new for the city.”