New bar plan aims to bring Manchester’s Northern Quarter to Sunderland

The former music shop and opticians, High Street West, Sunderland.
The former music shop and opticians, High Street West, Sunderland.
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A slice of Manchester’s Northern Quarter might be on its way to Wearside as plans are put in to transform two shop units into a city centre bar.

Alenia’s Music Art in High Street West, and the neighbouring former opticians in Church Lane, Sunderland, could be transformed as part of the change of use application made to Sunderland City Council.

Ben Wall.

Ben Wall.

Ben Wall, who already runs Independent in Holmeside, is behind the efforts after agreeing to lease the buildings.

He aims to emulate bars like those found in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, which is thriving through its mix of pubs, clubs, cafes, live music and shops.

He said: “I’ll still running Independent, but this will be something different to anything else.

“I got the idea when I went to the Northern Quarter in Manchester and I’m going for that type of feel.

There’s already Park Lane and Green Terrace, and this is somewhere which is being developed.

Ben Wall

“It will have a special menu and it’s going to be very much a food place.

“It’s in a nice area and it’s becoming an alternative area for people to come to.

“There’s already Park Lane and Green Terrace, and this is somewhere which is being developed.”

If the planning application is approved, Ben plans to create one single unit from the two former businesses, with eating and drinking areas, a bar, kitchen and cellar storage.

If the plans come to fruition, the yet-t0-be-named bar will join Vesta Tilleys, which was launched in the former Black Bull pub, and a revamped Dun Cow among the area’s bars. There are also efforts under way to turn the former fire station into a cultural hub. Ben launched the White Room in 2003 with family members before going into business with Paul Smiles in 2005, and they went on to open Independent.

The club then made a move to another building in the street in 2013, after the original base was knocked down to make way for the new Sunderland College city centre campus, with only Ben now at the helm.