'We've been doing well, let's keep it going' - Sunderland hospitality on welcoming sit-in custom for Bank Holiday weekend

For the first Bank Holiday in nine months Sunderland’s hospitality sector will be able to welcome sit-in drinkers and diners this weekend.

Saturday, 29th May 2021, 4:55 am
City businesses looking forward to a bumper Bank Holiday

The North East’s bars, cafes and restaurants were closed for sit-in custom from November 5 last year and were only able to reopen from May 17 in line with the country easing out of Lockdown – meaning the August Bank Holiday 2020 was the last time they could serve anyone indoors for a public holiday.

It makes this week’s long weekend extra special as they welcome their regulars back, and Federico Trulli of Angelo’s Ristorante, one of Sunniside’s longest-running restaurants, says it’s been emotional to be serving people properly once more.

“Even our first customer back on May 17 was emotional,” he said. “The first plate that went out was amazing for the chef, to be able to serve food as we’re supposed to.

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Nello Russo and front of house Federico Trulli (right) at Angelo's which can serve its classic Italian dishes inside once more.

"We did takeaway to survive and keep the staff and kitchen going during Lockdown, but we’re a restaurant, we love what we do and we want to be able to serve people our food. And it’s great to see our customers happy and enjoying some normality.”

As well as the Sunniside site, Angelo’s has a branch in East Rainton, and both have been fully booked for weekends, including the forthcoming Bank Holiday weekend, with both restaurants offering outdoor seating also.

"Even the week days have been busy. We expected the first one after opening to be busy, but that’s continued which is fantastic,” added Federico. “We’ve been doing well, now we just need to keep that going.”

Gemma Sutherland is among the city cafe owners who’ve been able to serve people a much-needed cuppa and cake inside once more.

Chef Nello Russo in the kitchen at Angelo's

Regulars have been flooding back to her Crumb On In coffee shop in Holmeside.

"It’s been lovely to have all our regulars back, but we’ve also seen some new faces of people who used our delivery service in Lockdown, it’s been a blessing really,” explained the businesswoman.

Crumb On In operates a 40% booking, 60% walk-ins model and Gemma says they’re fully booked for the Bank Holiday with people eager to tuck into their afternoon teas, cheesecakes and more.

Speaking about her staff, she said: “The girls have loved being back chatting to their favourite customers and having that interaction.”

Gemma Sutherland of the Crumb On In cafe, in Holmeside, Sunderland

She added: “When we first opened on the 17th it was a bit scary but day on day we’ve seen more people returning to the city centre as people’s confidence increases, hopefully it lasts.”

Helen Maddison runs the Victoria Gardens in Grangetown and co-owns Bar Justice in Sunniside. Both pubs are looking forward to a good Bank Holiday weekend, welcoming people inside as well as to the two site’s outdoor areas.

She says even though sit-in is now permitted, people are really enjoying outdoor drinking and dining.

"We have two beer gardens at Victoria Gardens, as well as gazebo at the front of Bar Justice and a terrace and we’ve noticed that even though there’s the option of sit-in people really enjoy sitting out, even when it’s chilly, especially the younger crowd,” she said.

Gemma Sutherland of the Crumb On In cafe, in Holmeside, Sunderland

There’s plenty of entertainment for people visiting the bars this weekend, with Victoria Gardens hosting a May Fest on Sunday from 12pm-8pm with live music. Bar Justice, which has underwent a makeover to give it a more colourful look, will also host live music on Sunday, followed by a DJ set.

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Helen Maddison at Victoria Gardens which is hosting a May Fest
New look Bar Justice manager Michael Fitzmaurice ready for the bank holiday weekend.
New look Bar Justice ahead of the bank holiday weekend.