The men behind a £2million landmark restaurant development on Sunderland seafront have spoken out to quash rumours the development is in trouble.
The Echo reported in May that council bosses had given the green light for a third restaurant in the Fat Buddha chain, to open as part of a scheme to refurbish the promenade shelter at Seaburn, creating almost 50 jobs.
As well as the restaurant upstairs, the building will include public toilets, a cafe, disabled changing facilities and a new office for the RNLI on the promenade level.
Operators Hot Buddha Ltd were aiming to open the venue by the late summer. However, the building work has hit a series of hold-ups, and the opening has been put back to early next year.
The delays have sparked rumours that the development has run into serious trouble. Now, boss Bob Senior and partner Eddie Fung, who will be responsible for the day-to-day running of the restaurant, are looking to lay the rumours to rest.
Mr Senior said: “We are desperate to get in – I don’t think there’s a better site on the North East coast.”
It needs to be right. There are always teething troubles when you open a new restaurant. We think it is worth going the extra mile to get it right.Bob Senior
Hold-ups have included the late arrival from China of granite to build a new staircase next to the restaurant, and changes to the design where the restaurant’s patio area meets the promenade.
Work on the £1million-plus building is now almost complete and the £750,000 interior fitting out will begin soon.
“There are actually two teams of builders,” said Bob.
“The first team has to finish physically building it, then the second come in for the fitting out. That will probably be within the next number of weeks – it won’t be months.”
The decision was taken to push the unveiling back to the new year, rather than try to open before Christmas, to allow time for staff recruitment and training.
“We didn’t want to open in November and be rushing it,” said Eddie. “It needs to be right. There are always teething troubles when you open a new restaurant. We think it is worth going the extra mile to get it right.”
Councillors approved the Fat Buddha plan earlier this year in the face of opposition from local residents, concerned granting permission for a restaurant, would pave the way for a nightclub.
Some residents feared the plan would encourage rowdy behaviour, binge drinking and noise.
Council officers received 37 submissions opposing the plans, although no statutory body objected to the application.
Objectors claimed the granting of a 2am alcohol licence could lead to a tragedy if drunken customers got too close to the sea.
Victoria Murray said granting a licence would lead to children being exposed to “raucous behaviour and bad language”, adding: “It sets a dangerous precedent towards it becoming a late-night hot spot.”
Keith Newby said: “You could get an element of tomfoolery going on and that could spoil a good seafront.”
Anne Curtis feared her family will be affected by noise, saying: “I don’t need my nights disrupted by people drinking into the early hours.”
The city council’s licencing sub-committee approved the application, but amended the licence hours after Mr Senior offered to close at 1am Monday to Thursday, and 2am on weekends and told the meeting he would rarely open past midnight.
“I feel pleased we got a common-sense decision.However, it is a shame the residents were feeling that we were opening a nightclub, when that is obviously not the case.
“I hope residents understand that we listened to their concerns and compromised on the closing time.”