A group of businessmen have found their lucky number after breathing new life into a well-known Sunderland site.
The building on the corner of St Thomas Street and John Street has had a mixed bag of fortunes in previous guises as The Continental, Gillespies and, more recently, Oriental Palace Chinese restaurant, but it’s proving more popular than ever as 808 Bar and Kitchen.
Business partners Preston Brown, Nathan Fryatt, Loui Brown and Carlton Johnston have ploughed £250,000 and five months of hard graft into completely transforming the corner site into their restaurant and bar.
Named after the 808 drum machine and 8 being the lucky number in Chinese, in a nod to the site’s former life as a Chinese restaurant, the new venture, which opened a month ago, is already drawing in the crowds to a previously under-used corner of town.
Preston, who runs the adjacent Port Independent clothing store, said: “We knew the site and knew it wasn’t really do anything and always said we should try and do something with it if it shut down. As soon as we saw that the Chinese restaurant was closing down we asked about it before it had even gone on the market. We had to strip everything back, even though it already had a kitchen, and everything was completely rewired and replastered. We did a lot of the stripping out ourselves before using a team of tradesmen.
“The only things remaining are the windows so I think people are really surprised with what we’ve done with the place when they first come in. It’s something completely different for Sunderland.”
Speaking about the decor, which features pink blossom trees and fifties diner-style blue booths, Preston said: “The whole ethos of the place was about bringing the outdoors in, hence all the trees. We also wanted it to be really bright in contrast to the full black of the outside.”
As the business partners are involved in record label Haze Records, music is a strong part of the venture, but it’s also built up a firm following for food, which is served from noon daily.
Preston said: “As Haze we run music nights which fill other people’s bars and venues, so we always wanted our own bar, to run alongside those nights. “But because this place had a kitchen we decided to reevaluate what we’re doing. That side has proven really popular and tables get booked up quickly.”
A 2.7tonne pizza oven had to be lifted in by crane for the kitchen side of the business, which specialises in pizzas, burgers, sliders and platters.
808 is the latest new venue to open in the Sunniside side of town which has also welcomed The Church Door and Manor Bar in recent weeks.
Nathan said: “This side of town has always been more of a go to place for me because of Sam’s Bar and Bar Justice and I think the footfall is definitely increasing here, which allows more businesses like ours to open. It’s just a case of people realising what’s here.”