Outdoor seating approved for new Keel Tavern bar in Sunderland's Keel Square

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A new hospitality venue launching at Keel Square is set to benefit from an outdoor seating area, following a decision by council development chiefs.

The Vaulkhard Group, the company behind Newcastle’s Barluga and The Bridge Tavern, recently revealed plans to set up shop on Wearside.

This included moving into one of the large city centre business units below the Holiday Inn at Keel Square, with the venue named as Keel Tavern.

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Earlier this year, a planning application was submitted to Sunderland City Council seeking permission for an outdoor seating area accommodating up to 96 covers.

The Vaulkhard group, which owns bars such as The Town Wall and The Bridge Tavern in Newcastle, is moving into Sunderland.The Vaulkhard group, which owns bars such as The Town Wall and The Bridge Tavern in Newcastle, is moving into Sunderland.
The Vaulkhard group, which owns bars such as The Town Wall and The Bridge Tavern in Newcastle, is moving into Sunderland.

The submitted site plan showed tables and chairs and the site bounded by planters, with the total area being around 227 square metres.

Those behind the scheme said the area, located near The Botanist’s planned outdoor seating area, would “include a modest PA system which would play background music at low levels”.

During consultation on the plans there were no objections from Northumbria Police or the council’s environmental health department, with council officers welcoming the applicant’s proposed ‘noise controls’.

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The council’s conservation officer also said the outdoor area would “form part of the wider activation of Keel Square, supporting the designed purpose of the square as a focus for outdoor activity”.

The dining area at Barluga in Newcastle.The dining area at Barluga in Newcastle.
The dining area at Barluga in Newcastle.

The consultation statement added: “The proposal is consistent with the manner in which outdoor eating and drinking areas add to the ambience and cultural offer of most public squares in other historic city and town centres”.

After considering the planning application and assessing it against planning policies, Sunderland City Council’s planning department approved it on April 18, 2023.

A council decision report noted the plans would align with Sunderland City Council’s ambitions and aspirations for Riverside Sunderland over the next 20 years.

This includes establishing the area as a “successful business location, a popular place to live and a focal point for civic, cultural and community life”.

The council decision report added: “Keel Square, completed in 2015, is a pivotal location linking The Bridges shopping centre and the commercial heart of the city to the wider Riverside Sunderland area.

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“The redevelopment of Riverside Sunderland aims to generate footfall by clustering activity around the square.

“The provision of the proposed outdoor seating area would therefore contribute to both the general and detailed aims of the [Riverside Sunderland] supplementary planning document”.

According to the planning application, proposed opening hours for the Keel Tavern’s outdoor area would be 10am-10pm on all days, including Bank Holidays.

Under council planning conditions, the use of any outdoor speakers would be for “background music only”.

For more information on the application and council decision, visit Sunderland City Council’s online planning portal website and search reference: 23/00367/FU4