The ‘much-loved’ restaurant Luciano's in High Street West is to be demolished as part of Sunderland City Council’s regeneration of the city centre.
Luciano’s, which has operated from the same building for some three decades and won Leisure Business of the Year 2021 at the Sunderland Echo Portfolio Awards, is set to move elsewhere.
Application proposals to relocate to units under the new hotel at Keel Square are yet to be approved by the council.
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The demolition of the building, which council chiefs say has been in the pipeline for several years, will take place next year in preparation for the city’s new Culture House.
Now, a petition has been launched by Ashbrooke resident Patrick James in a bid to help Luciano’s remain in the vicinity of Keel Square.
Patrick said: “Luciano’s has been a city centre favourite for years and the business has dedicated staff and loyal customers that don’t want to see it suffer as a result of moving outside of Keel Square.
"The restaurant has served communities here for 30 years and has survived difficult times, particularly throughout the pandemic – it would be a huge loss to the city centre if Luciano’s relocated elsewhere.”
Owners Habib Farahi and Masoud Farahi say they are ‘disappointed to be leaving years of memories behind’ but hope to relocate to Keel Square after ruling out alternative premises in Sunderland that were ‘unsuitable for the business.’
The petition, which has received more than 3,500 signatures at the time of writing, hopes to help the popular restaurant remain in the area so the business can “continue to provide more years of service to the community”.
Patrick added: “I understand that the site is for regeneration and it needs to be demolished but myself and so many others don’t want to see the business struggling outside the city centre.
“I care about this city and I will fight to help this family-run business that so many people love.”
Sunderland City Council have been contacted for a comment.
Previously council chiefs have pointed out the demolition has been in the pipeline for several years, and stressed officers have been working hard to help Luciano’s find a suitable new home.
Council leader Graeme Miller said in December that Sunderland needs ‘impressive new visitor attractions’ in the city centre to draw people in and the Culture House would be ‘a world-class venue that will inspire and excite people of all ages’.
“Ambitious cities develop and change, and transformation programmes like the one we are delivering in our city centre will – inevitably – mean that some businesses may be required to relocate to facilitate new development,” he said.
“We recognise that Luciano’s is a much-loved restaurant and a place we know holds strong memories for lots of people in the city and we’d like to support the business to start a new chapter in the city centre.
"We have tirelessly supported the team over the years, particularly at the point that Luciano’s’ lease on this building became unsecured, seven years ago, with a significant reduction in rent in recognition of the fact we could not guarantee they could remain there in the long term.”
Cllr Miller also pointed out at the time how the council had supported Luciano’s and other leisure and hospitality businesses through the pandemic.
He added: “The council team has explored a number of alternative premises with Luciano’s’ management team but to date we understand they have not yet finalised their plans for new premises.”