'Light at the end of the tunnel' - Sunderland restaurateurs gear up for reopening from May 17

Sunderland’s restaurateurs say they can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel after the Government gave them a date to welcome diners for sit-in custom once more.

Tuesday, 23rd February 2021, 4:32 pm
Updated Tuesday, 23rd February 2021, 4:32 pm

Restaurants in the North East have not been able to open for sit-in dining since before the second Lockdown on November 5 after being placed into Tier 3 when that Lockdown eased.

Only being able to offer deliveries in December, hospitality’s most profitable month, capped off a crushing year for the sector.

But finally, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing the Government’s roadmap for leading the country out of the third Lockdown, the food and drink industry has been given a date as to when some level of normality can resume.

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City pubs and restaurants are looking forward to welcoming sit in custom once more.

From May 17, pubs, restaurants, hotels and B&B’s amongst others, can open indoors, subject to rule of six or meeting of two households.

Speaking about being given the time to prepare for a reopening, Ian Wong from Asiana Fusion, one of the city centre’s longest-running restaurants, said: “Finally a true light at the end of the tunnel! It’s been a very horrible and emotional 12 months.

"As a business owner, and like many others, I feel I am reaching the end of the line with how much longer we can survive, monetarily and mentally.

"The news is very welcoming, however, like the Government say, it is early days and I would much rather tread carefully than have to go into a fourth Lockdown.”

Asiana Fusion in West Wear Street

Ian says he hopes people will adhere to restrictions until such time they are lifted.

"I just pray that people behave and the infection as well as the numbers of hospitalisation do not increase, especially in the North East,” he said.

"On the flip side, as much as the news is welcomed and I really can’t wait to get opened properly again, there is also a feeling of anxiety, having not done it for so long and the thought of having to put everything in place before opening is a little daunting. Fingers crossed this is the final high hurdle and we can slowly begin getting back to normal.”

Neil Bassett is at the helm of a pub, The Ship Isis in Silksworth Row, as well as a restaurant, Mexico 70 in High Street West.

The Ship Isis in Silksworth Row

He says it helps that Covid secure measures are already in place at both sites.

“We’re ready and excited to get both Mexico 70 and The Ship Isis open again and we’re currently making plans for both sites,” he said. "Both places are Covid ready and safe from the last time we were open and we know what to expect so it will be a smooth re-opening.”

In the meantime, The Ship Isis is delivering draught beer every weekend, while Mexico 70 is doing deliveries of dishes such as Asian fried chicken and flatbread kebabs.

Initial structural work has also begun on a new venture for the Mexico 70 team who are transforming a former storage shelter in Seaburn into a seafood restaurant due to open this summer.

Neil Bassett of Mexico 70 says it helps that Covid secure measures are already in place.

Another new addition diners can look forward to is Spent Grain in John Street which will open its doors for the first time when Lockdown eases.

It’s been brought to the city by chef Michael Jameson and business partner Julie Gibson.

Michael, who already has a following in the city with his Urban Terrace Kitchen deli in Pallion, said: “Developing a new brand during a pandemic was always going to be a challenge, however, we feel privileged to be able to introduce everyone to Spent Grain.

"The announcement has brought a lot of excitement and we look forward to seeing you all in the near future.”

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Chef Michael Jameson is looking forward to opening his Spent Grain restaurant in John Street for the first time.

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Spent Grain is a new addition to the city.