It’s been a long road transforming the old toilet block and tram shed into a new bar for the seafront, complete with a terrace overlooking Roker Pier and along the coastline, but Tin of Sardines is finally nearing completion.
Major construction work has also involved removing the lowered ceiling to expose original beams, building a bar and kitchen area, new toilets for patrons and floor to ceiling windows on either side of the building which capture both sunrises and sunsets.
Lease holders the Davis family completed on the project officially at the end of April, signing a 10 year lease, meaning it’s full steam ahead now to fit out the site with a view to opening it mid-June in time for the warmer weather.
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Tin of Sardines will stock more than 200 varieties of gin, but will also offer draught beers, spirits and wines.
Food-wise, the owners will be making the most of the North Sea with oysters and seafood on the menu, as well as bar snacks and light bites.
Trevor Davis, who owns Tin of Sardines with son Ben, said they can’t wait to finally have drinkers through the doors.
“You really can’t beat that view, it’s got to be the best in the city,” explained the businessman who lives in Sunderland. “When we first saw this building it was really dingy with low ceilings, old toilets and gulleys. But once they removed the ceiling and we saw the beams it really brought the building to life.”
Ben said: “I must have driven past this building thousands of times and had never really noticed it, but the bar has really made it into a landmark. It’s amazing when the sun’s shining, but the other day I came down in bad weather, sat inside, and the sea was still beautiful to watch.”
Up to 20 jobs have been created by the bar, which will seat around 30 inside and 50 outside, with tables for groups as well as couples.
The new bar will be a sister site to the Tin of Sardines on Elvet Bridge, Durham City, which, with a capacity of just 16 inside, is known as the world’s smallest gin bar, as well as Tin of Sardines in Trevor’s home town of Poole in Dorset.
Trevor, who also owns Old Tom’s in Durham, said: “I’ve had many bars, but this is our first on Sunderland seafront, we’re really excited about seeing it open and to sit at the bar with a glass of Chardonnay taking in those views.”
The transformation of the site has included a £250,000 investment from Sunderland City Council, assisted by grant funding courtesy of The Coastal Communities Fund, to ensure the premises was ready for a tenant to move into.
The income from the lease will also support the Sunderland Seafront Trust, which operates the Roker Pier and Lighthouse tours, and the new income will help it to organise a range of seafront events and activities.
Ben said: “There’s so much development along Roker and it’s about time, it’s a great place. You can see a real route developing now with places like us, Grannie Annie’s, Poetic License and Six. It’s fantastic news about Vaux taking over the shelter, too.
"It’s not competition, you need plenty of bars and choice to attract people and make an area a destination.”
The Echo recently revealed that the team behind the successful Vaux Brewery in Roker Retail Park have won planning permission to turn the old shelter on the corner of Marine Walk into a beachfront bar.
Other developments taking place as part of the wider Seafront Regeneration Scheme include the old shelter on Seaburn promenade, which is due to open as a new seafood restaurant run by the team behind Mexico 70 and Ship Isis soon, and the old tram shelter in Seaburn being given new life by Black’s Corner.
The new Roker Tin of Sardines will be open seven days a week from 8am to 11pm.