'It's been a long time coming' - city restaurateurs can't wait to welcome sit-in diners as restrictions are eased
"Hospitality is all about the people, without them it’s nothing” – say city restaurateurs as they prepare to welcome sit-in custom for the first time in nearly seven months.
Due to the North East being placed in Tier 3 of the old tier system, Sunderland’s cafes, pubs and restaurants have not been able to serve their customers inside since November 5.
It’s been a hugely challenging time for a sector which is built around socialising, but there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel with Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirming that indoor venues can reopen from May 17 in line with the planned roadmap to ease the country out of lockdown.
It’s a sigh of relief for Sunderland businesses who say there’s a huge appetite for people to return.
Like many, Shandiz restaurant in Vine Place, which specialises in Persian dishes, has relied on takeouts and delivery to see it through the dark months of lockdown.
But the time closed has given them the chance to refurbish the site, and they say they can’t wait to see their regulars again.
Owner Helia Bahrami said: “Hospitality is all about the people, without them it’s nothing, so we absolutely can’t wait to serve people once more.
"As we have no outdoor space, we have been closed for sit in since the Eat Out To Help Out scheme. We thought we might struggle relying on take out, but it was really popular with our regulars and we had great feedback.
"It did give us the chance to get work done in the restaurant, however, and we’ve also got new additions to the menu, such as vegan and vegetarian options, as well as an increased social media presence, which has helped.”
The restaurant, which will be open seven days a week from 11.30am has already had a number of enquiries for sit-in and people are advised to book ahead on Tel: 0191 565 8885.
While it will be a return to form for established restaurants, others will be opening their doors for the first time.
Despite the tough climate, a number of new businesses are opening in Sunderland in 2021.
They include Undisclosed which is reopening in the former D’acqua site in John Street from May 21 following a £50,000 refurbishment of the historic building.
It's already fully booked for its first two nights, on May 21 and 22, and owner Christopher Spence says the interest has exceeded his expectations.
"I wasn’t not confident about opening a restaurant at this time, but it’s gone even better than expected so far. People are definitely ready to be out again,” he said.
The distinctive purple of the restaurant’s former guise has been replaced with a darker, more Japanese influence interior-wise, as well as a whole new menu for people to look forward to.
Another new addition to the city centre is Spent Grain in John Street, which will open its doors for the first time from Monday, May 17.
The restaurant has been ready to go since before November, but restrictions meant it’s been unable to reach its potential until now.
Chef and co-owner Michael Jameson, who also owns successful deli The Urban Terrace Kitchen in Pallion, said: “This opening has been a long time coming. “The hospitality industry has been brought to its knees and we’re now hoping for an influx of people.