Historic Sunderland city centre building to become a nightclub once more after huge transformation
A new nightclub and a bar with its own rooftop garden are being created as part of a major investment in a landmark city centre building.
The distinctive red brick Galen Building, which dates back to 1900 when it was used as a technical college, has had many uses over the years including as Liquid, Diva and Basement nightclubs, while the neighbouring unit has housed bars such as Varsity and Tequila Tequila.
Now, businessman Michael Downey, who has four decades of experience in Sunderland night life, has taken over the lease of the former Basement club, which has been empty for four years, as well as the former Varsity site which has been closed since before the pandemic.
The nightclub boss previously ran the Varsity site as Tequila Tequila and he will be bringing the Mexican restaurant back to the ground floor of the site. Upstairs, meanwhile, will become a new home for Hidden which Michael has had to move because of the redevelopment work at its previous home in Park Lane Market.
Hidden, which has seen the creation of a brand new outdoor garden bar area, and Tequila Tequila will open to the public from July 23. Next door, work is ongoing to transform the former Basement club into Trilogy, with a view to opening in August.
Michael, who previously ran the former Illusions club in Holmeside, said: “The leases on Hidden in Park Lane and Illusions were up and they both lie in an area earmarked for development. You can’t stand in the way of progress and I think the plans for that area of the city centre are really beneficial.
"The nightlife is more focused at this end of town now so I decided to take on the lease at Tequila Tequila (which was briefly operating as Endless Pizza before the Lockdown), as well as the next door lease at Basement.
"You have so many good bars here now, such as The Rabbit and Street Bar, Greens, Establishment and the new Halo, which is the best that site has been. At this end you have Fitzies, The Terrace, Life of Riley, who all do a fantastic job, and the development of The Cooper Rose, and we really think we can add to that.”
While Trilogy will be a brand new club, Hidden will very much follow the botanical theme of its predecessor, with the openings creating more than 30 new jobs for the city.
"Hidden was very popular,” explained Michael. “We had an over 21s policy and people liked that. It was a great outdoor space and something totally different in the city, which was great in the summer, but people did get cold in the winter. With this site though, we have the garden area, but also an indoor bar, so it’s the best of both."
Michael has been granted new licenses for both sites, which will make them one of the latest places to open in the city, with a 3.30am licence Sunday to Wednesday, 4am on Thursdays, 4.30am on Fridays and Saturdays and 5.30am on Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve.