First look inside Sunderland's new not-for-profit cafe and bar Diego's Joint

A new cafe and bar is breathing new life into city centre buildings, pulling good pints for a good cause.

With its disused warehouse aesthetic, 1980s-style neon signage and up to 40 varieties of craft beers, Diego’s Joint is bringing something different to Sunderland’s oft under-used Sunniside quarter.

The brainchild of social entrepreneur Dan Makaveli, with support from designer maker, Leon Garshong, and former bar owner Simon Burdus, the venue has space for around 90 people and will be open seven days a week for coffees, pints and wines, as well as a host of events.

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As well as keeping people entertained, it’s also serving a wider purpose and will be helping people on the pathway to employment, for those who experience health and social mobility problems, as well as those with a criminal record who may have faced difficulties in finding work.

Diego's Joint in Sunniside

The idea has been years in development and has been a major investment for the area, so Dan say it’s incredible to be finally opening the doors to the public, from 4pm on Friday, September 16.

He’s well acquainted with the area, and opened neighbouring social enterprise, Media Savvy, a digital training company, 12 years ago.

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"It’s really exciting to be opening and to see it coming together more day by day,” said Dan. “The early feedback has been amazing.”

Much creativity has gone into the design of the venue, with local artworks by Sunderland University students and a colourful bar made from resin, with more additions to be made in the coming weeks.

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Sunniside's new bar, Diego's Joint specialising in craft ale, teas and coffee. Owner Dan Makaveli with his dog Diego with staff Haythem Tawfiq and Lisa Miller.

Real thought has gone into the drinks, too, with each stockist being either local, sustainable or helping to plough funds into a good cause, such as Vaux, which is brewed over the water in Roker; Sea Change wines, which fund ocean conservation projects; 14 tea varieties which pay growers a fair price; Karma Cola who give a percentage of revenue to its Cola nut growers and their communities in Sierra Leone and Ascension Cider who use apples thrown away by supermarkets.

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There are six draught options, as well as dozens of cans and bottles available.

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“From the early days, we decided to not follow promotions and trends and to do it our way, confident that people will come,” said Dan. "Our driving force is give training and job opportunities which we’ll be starting to implement in the coming months once we’re up and running.”

Sunniside's new bar, Diego's Joint specialising in craft ale, teas and coffee.
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Diego’s Joint is named after Dan’s 12-year-old Doberman, Diego, who is somewhat of a star, having appeared in a Sam Smith music video and who went viral in a BBC story about pet fitness.

The venue has long open hours so that it can be used for a variety of groups, from community groups and students, to comedy nights and DJ sets.

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The Sunniside area has seen a number of new openings recently, including The Rainbow Hub cafe and 35 West Sunniside, which has been turned into artists studios.

Nearby, Pop Recs cafe and venue has proved a hit in once-dilapidated buildings at the bottom of High Street West.

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Diego's Joint is the brainchild of social entrepreneur Dan Makaveli and is named after his doberman

In the coming months, the old Frankie & Benny’s site is set to become a new Rio Steakhouse and work will begin on transforming the old Norfolk Hotel into a community space.

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Sunderland University students created some of the artworks
Some of the many beers on offer
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It operates as a cafe during the day
Sunniside's new bar, Diego's Joint specialising in craft ale, teas and coffee.
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Sunniside's new bar, Diego's Joint specialising in craft ale, teas and coffee.
Some of the draught options
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Sunniside's new bar, Diego's Joint specialising in craft ale, teas and coffee.
Sunniside's new bar, Diego's Joint specialising in craft ale, teas and coffee.