A businessman believes his new restaurant and bar can help to breathe new life into Sunderland’s city centre.
After six months of refurbishment, Andy Thoburn and his business partner John Richardson have opened Holy Smokes on the corner of Derwent Street and Park Lane.
The bar and grill has taken over the first floor of the former Luma bar, creating more than 15 new jobs.
Andy says he chose the site as it was crying out for investment.
“I looked at Port of Call and the other investment going on in the city centre and I really believe we’re going through a transition period at the moment,” he said.
“It’s down to the likes of us, the younger generation, to bring in new ideas and offer people something different. It’s up to us to deliver what people want.”
I really believe Derwent Street and Olive Street could be like the Northern Quarter in Manchester. The business rates are cheap and it’s crying out for artisan bakers, clothes shops and other independent businesses.Andy Thoburn
The grill has adopted an urban theme, with feature graffiti, tattoo motifs and skulls.
Andy says he spent months getting the decor, which was constructed by Wearside firm Chambers Construction, just right.
“It’s as much about the experience, as the food, it’s about how you feel when you walk in the place,” explained Andy, who previously worked at his family’s Thoburns fruit and veg business.
Andy has also been helped by sister Ellis Cooper, a successful model who has almost 150,000 followers on photo sharing site, Instagram.
He said: “We haven’t really advertised apart from on Instagram, which is how a lot of restaurants in Manchester and London advertise themselves.
“Ellis has been great with marketing, whenever she posts anything it goes bonkers. We’ve only been open since Thursday, but it’s become a bit of a cult because of the visual presentation.”
Andy says people have welcomed the new addition to the city.
“We’ve had really good reports so far,” he said. “There’s been a few niggles on TripAdvisor, but we’re still getting it right and all the feedback is getting addressed.”
Food is served daily, which includes burgers, steaks and grills, until 10.30pm with live DJs and bands at weekends playing a range of music.
Andy hopes it will prove successful enough to become the flagship bar in a chain.
He said: “I hope to eventually take Holy Smokes to Durham and Newcastle, but Sunderland is my home city and I wanted it here first. I really believe Derwent Street and Olive Street could be like the Northern Quarter in Manchester.
“The business rates are cheap and it’s crying out for artisan bakers, clothes shops and other independent businesses.”