See inside Sunderland's new Pharmacy bar as it honours site's history

A new bar is hoping to be just the tonic after opening as Pharmacy.

Thursday, 21st October 2021, 4:55 am

Due to all the pandemic restrictions, Club Upside Down in Vine Place hadn’t traded since March 2020.

The club’s owner Michael Watson spent the time in Lockdown coming up with a new venture for the site, giving it a completely new look and renaming it Pharmacy in a nod to the site’s decades as a pharmacy.

Instead of operating as a nightclub, the site is now a bar covering two floors as well as an outdoor terrace, which has created 15 new jobs for the city.

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Pharmacy has opened in the old pharmacy site in Vine Place

Michael, who also operates P’s & Q’s, said: “With all the talk of vaccine passports, I struggled to see how nightclubs could operate, especially a small, independent one in Sunderland.

"Club Upside Down was popular but had different music and events on week in, week out. So some people come one week and loved the music and not the next week. In a way that variation worked, but on other nights it didn’t.”

Speaking about the new name, he said: “This corner site was a pharmacy for years and lots of people still remember it as that, the older generation especially would call it the Pharmacy, and I thought it would make a quirky name for a bar.”

The black walls and neon wall art of Club Upside Down has been replaced by green hues, exposed brickwork and feature lighting.

Pharmacy has opened in the former Club Upside Down on Vine Place.

Michael said: “It’s still a work in progress, but I wanted to make it more accessible for people and to lighten the place up. As a venue, it’s bigger than people think and can hold around 350 people. The terrace at the back is also a popular area."

Collectively, Sunderland city centre’s independent pubs and venues are a cornerstone of the area’s nighttime economy, providing thousands of jobs in the sector, whilst also giving drinkers a good time.

Now, more than a dozen pubs from across SR1 have formed a sub-section of the city centre traders association, called WearOne.

Pharmacy has opened in the former Club Upside Down on Vine Place. Owner Michael Watson.

Starting with a fancy dress competition running on the Halloween weekend, they’ll be running events and incentives across their venues to encourage people to use their pubs.

Michael said: “Having a pub in the city centre is challenging at the minute and there’s less taxis after the pandemic, which affects trade. But for customers there’s a lot to attract them to the city centre.

"There’s been a lot of investment recently and a lot of new bars opening in empty buildings, such as Spot White, Halo, Street Bar and Proven People who’ve all done a great job.”

Pharmacy is open Wednesday nights to Sunday and is proving a popular stop off on Play Wednesdays, a new student night for the city which also includes Gatsby’s and the new Trilogy nightclub in the Galen Building.

Pharmacy has opened in the former Club Upside Down on Vine Place.

Other bars and venues participating in the WearOne group include The Point, Live Lounge, Glitterball, Ttonic, Chaplin’s, Ship Isis, Church Lane, Mexico 70, 7even, Independent, Sinatra’s, The Church Door, Bar Justice, Sam’s Bar, Port of Call, Pharmacy, P’s & Q’s, Trilogy and Hidden.

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Pharmacy has opened in the former Club Upside Down on Vine Place. Owner Michael Watson.
Pharmacy has opened in the former Club Upside Down on Vine Place.
Pharmacy has opened in the former Club Upside Down on Vine Place.
Pharmacy has opened in the former Club Upside Down on Vine Place.
Pharmacy has opened in the former Club Upside Down on Vine Place.
Pharmacy has opened in the former Club Upside Down on Vine Place.
Pharmacy has opened in the former Club Upside Down on Vine Place.