New not-for-profit cafe Diego's Joint set to open in Sunderland city centre

Sunderland city centre will welcome a new cafe this month.

Diego’s Joint is set to open its doors in September after transforming a site in Sunniside, one of many new businesses to open in the area recently.

A not-for-profit cafe and bar, it will provide job and training opportunities to those that have found it difficult to find work.

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The organisation is the brainchild of social entrepreneur Dan Makaveli, with support from designer maker, Leon Garshong and former bar owner Simon Burdus.

Image: L-R Leon Garshong, Dan Makaveli and Cllr Graeme Miller

It will serve a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and food made from local produce, whilst also being an events space for community groups.

The social enterprise is an offshoot of Media Savvy, which was founded by Dan back in 2010, which has its headquarters above the Norfolk Street venue.

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Media Savvy has been providing digital training for the past 12 years to some of society’s most marginalised, helping hundreds of people improve their lives.

Speaking about the launch, Dan said: “We came up with the idea behind Diego’s a few years back however it wasn’t ready to go until just before Covid struck, so it’s fair to say it’s been a far bigger slog and expense than we’d initially anticipated.

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“We knew the Media Savvy model worked, as we’d seen the organisation help scores of people over the past 12 years, so we thought ‘why not extend it to have an even deeper impact?’

“For some of the people we work with, it’s about maintaining, for example, stopping them being hospitalised or re-offending, but that’s just a small percentage.

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“A larger proportion have had a dip, for whatever reason, and now want to get back into work, which is where we can really help them. Most of them are more than capable of holding down a job and achieving great things however they lack education and experience to do it, which is where Diego’s comes in.”

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Simon Burdus joined the team as operations manager, having previously been the owner and operator of city centre venue, Bavaria. “It’s been odd but at the same time very refreshing to be in a position where I’m thinking more about the impact we’re having on people’s lives rather than our bottom-line,” he said.

“Dan and I have known each other for a number of years so when he pitched the idea of joining them to set up Diego’s, I jumped at the chance.

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“To be really helping change people’s lives is just so rewarding and I can’t wait to begin hosting our first customers and employees.”

“As well as working with local businesses to overcome their staffing issues, we’re also looking at establishing partnerships with some of the big chains to create further opportunities for those we engage with,” Dan added.

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“Most of those we work with have either never worked or have spent a long time away from work for a variety of reasons, be it health issues, social mobility challenges or criminal records, which means many employers won’t give them an opportunity as they can’t prove that they have recently held down a job."