The Saltgrass extends beer garden as people flock to Deptford for drinks

One of Sunderland’s oldest pubs has extended its beer gardens to cater for outdoor drinks, and has given the areas nautical names in honour of the site’s shipbuilding heritage.

Saturday, 24th April 2021, 7:00 am

The Saltgrass in Deptford dates back to 1842 and once would have been full with shipbuilders taking a break from the nearby yards.

Today, like all pubs, it’s faced one of the most difficult years in its history having to navigate Covid restrictions, but owner Walter Veti has adapted by massively extending the pub’s footprint with three outdoor areas.

In normal times, the pub’s indoor front bar would only be able to hold 20-30 people, but the new areas have taken the outdoor capacity to 198 with social distancing in place.

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The Saltgrass owner Walter Veti in the new The Deck area

The pub had already created The Anchor, a terrace with its own stage and bar, last year but it’s been joined by two partially-covered areas for outdoor drinks – The Deck and The Bow.

Around £60,000 has been invested in the outdoor areas, with £10,000 alone spent on a huge stretch tent to cover The Deck.

In line with the easing of restrictions, the pub opened for outdoor drinks from April 12 and, as with all pubs, although it’s been a challenge adapting to a different way of serving people, owner Walter Veti says hiring more staff, buzzers on tables and building more outdoor bars has helped.

"The problem is we’ve had to get used to a Continental way of service with outdoor table service, which the UK isn’t used to. We’re used to waiting at a bar to be served,” he explained. “People will wait at a bar to be served, but expect to be served at a table straight away. It’s been a huge learning curve, and we’ve upped our staff to 20 which has helped to cut waiting times in half.”

The Saltgrass in the once industrial heartland of Deptford

The creation of The Deck has also helped transform an area which had previously been subject to fly tipping. The outside walls were already home to some Frank Styles artworks and they’ve now become a striking back drop to the space.

Walter said: “We’ve really tidied the area up as it was very overgrown and people seem to like what we’ve done. The feedback has been good and there’s a great atmosphere on a night when the lights are lit up.”

The Anchor and Deck also have a joint DJ stage which is set to host some big names in the summer. People can also look forward to events such as the Euros on a big screen.

The pub, which is open seven days a week, runs a pre-booking system in which people can book tables for a set amount of time, up to six hours. The new spaces are proving popular and are fully booked for the next four Fridays and Saturdays, but Walter says it’s always worth checking for cancellations

Artworks on the walls in The Deck

Although The Saltgrass kitchen isn’t back up and running yet, there are street food vendors on site at weekends. There are also porta loos on site for people who prefer not to go indoors to use the facilities.

Opening hours are Monday to Thursday 2pm to 10pm and weekends from 11am to midnight.

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A huge stretch tent has been installed at the pub
Buzzers have been installed on the tables
The new Deck area