'There's been a great buzz' - Sunderland hospitality traders welcome sit-in custom once more

From restaurants welcoming sit-in custom again after seven months, to new cafes serving people for the first time, businesses say there’s been a real buzz in the city centre.

Monday, 17th May 2021, 4:38 pm

Monday, May 17 marked the next stage in reopening the country from lockdown with venues finally able to open their doors for sit-in custom.

In Sunderland city centre it saw a wave of drinkers and diners returning to their favourite spots.

Like many businesses, 808 Bar & Kitchen in St Thomas Street had to adapt to a takeout model to see them through the long lockdowns and, with no outdoor area, could only serve their customers in person from May 17.

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Sunderland businesses reopen their doors for sit-in dining

Dan Slater, general manager, said: “We’re so excited to get back open. We’ve been overwhelmed by the response, we’ve got a busy week ahead and are fully booked for the Friday and Saturday as well as the Bank Holiday Sunday.”

He added: “We ran a successful take away service in lockdown and that really helped to keep us in people’s minds.”

People returning to the bar and kitchen, which is open seven days a week, can look forward to a revamped food menu as well as DJs.

Neighbouring business CoffeeHaus, which is housed within Port Independent, opened during the pandemic, operating as takeout only meaning May 17 was the very first time owner Ashley Bell could serve her customers at a table.

808 Bar and Kitchen chef David Campbell with dishes from their relaunched menu

She said: “We certainly anticipated to be able to open for sit in sooner, so we’ve been holding on and holding on for this. We’ll be adapting as time goes on but our main focus is making sure everyone who comes in feels safe and comfortable.

“For some people it’s the first time they’ve been able to come out in a year so it’s about guiding them and making them feel reassured and confident.”

Port Independent is also home to Port Bierhaus craft ale shop which has now installed pumps so people can enjoy guest beers from local breweries such as Wylam and Anarchy Brew Co on draught while using the Coffeehaus seating.

Gerard Purvis, director at Port Independent, said: “This Friday is our first night for sit in at Bierhaus and every table is booked. Moving forward it will be a regular weekend thing and people will just be able to walk in. There’s so many independent businesses opening on this side of the city and it’s fantastic to see.”

808 Bar and Kitchen general manager Dan Slater getting ready for a busy week of bookings

One of the newest additions to the city centre is Spent Grain in John Street which is co-owned by Michael Jameson from the popular Urban Terrace Kitchen in Pallion. May 17 saw the restaurant, which is open seven days a week from breakfast through to evening meals, open its doors for the first time.

Michael said: “It’s been really well received. Since opening this morning we’ve had people in for coffees and lunches and it’s all been nice and relaxed.

“People are blown away by what we’ve done to the building. I think in this part of the city there’s a real foodie quarter developing.”

Coffeehaus customers Iain Armstrong, Karen Proud and Jayne Bell enjoying a sit-in coffee

Stewart Brass from the cafe said: “It’s been much busier than expected. We’ve had a great response to the cafe and we’ve had lots of families enjoying what we do and there’s a great buzz in the city centre.

“We’ve got a lot of events this week to mark opening for sit in, with characters out and about in the city and plenty more events coming up for people to look forward to in the future.”

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Sunderland businesses welcome customers back indoors today as lockdown restrictions are eased further. Coffeehaus owner Ashley Bell.
Bierhaus within Port Independent will be serving sit-in pints. Pictured is owner Gerard Purvis.
Spent Grain opened its doors for the very first time. Pictured is staff member Lillie Jameson.
Sunderland businesses welcome customers back indoors today as lockdown restrictions are eased further. Geek Retreat owners Stewart Brass and Laura Green.