Sunderland's smallest bar The Church Door hoping for a strong summer as it bounces back from Covid-19 times

It may be Sunderland’s smallest bar, but The Church Door is big in character.

Monday, 9th May 2022, 3:16 pm
Updated Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 10:00 am

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New owner Dale Percival took over the bar in West Sunniside, which holds around 30 people maximum, last summer when it proved a big hit with drinkers as businesses reopened post-lockdown.

With a host of events taking place in the city this summer, Dale says he’s looking forward to welcoming even more people through the door.

"The Church Door has such a great atmosphere,” explained Dale. “It has some really good regulars and other people are really surprised when they discover it for the first time.

Sunderland's smallest bar is hoping for a good summer

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"Last summer was great.

"Not sure if it was because of coming out of a lockdown, but Sunniside was really busy and people were really appreciative of their local bars and started going out in Sunderland instead of travelling to places like Durham or Newcastle.

"We’re all independents in Sunniside and there’s a great circuit here now for people, which appeals to a bit of an older crowd, people in their 30s and 40s.

"It’s great for date nights too.”

The Church Door sells a wide range of spirits, bottles and cocktails

The Church Door can’t do beers on tap because there’s no room for a cellar, but Dale said what it lacks in draught it makes up for with a wide range of spirits, wines, bottles and cocktails, including Espresso Martini ‘sisters’ – one a classic version and the other, a Matcha Espresso Martini.

Before it first opened as The Church Door in 2018, the Victorian building had been empty for around a decade, but underwent a major renovation to remove the first floor and create one, high room with rafters, which adds to its charm.

Dating back to around 1870, The Church Door building was once a Customs and Excise house adjacent to the Backhouse & Co bank, which was bombed during the war.

The name is a reference to the fact that the landlord runs a door company, and the look of the building, rather than it ever being used as a church.

The building was once a customs and excise house

Dale also recently took over the neighbouring bar, formerly Mr Jack’s, which he’s restyled and opened as Bar 1313, named after the fact both his sons were born on Friday the 13th.

Inside the Church Door bar on Sunniside.
It holds around 30 people
Inside the Church Door bar on Sunniside.
The building had been empty for a decade before it opened as The Church Door
A floor was removed to create one room