A basement bar which has been closed for almost 20 years will pull its first pint in decades tonight.
The Vestry in Fawcett Street has been derelict since the early 2000s when it was a popular feature on Sunderland city centre’s pub circuit.
It will reopen tonight as The Albert after new owner Graeme Tuckwell invested tens of thousands of pounds in giving it a whole new identity.
He had hoped to retain some of the pub’s old features, including the original bar, but years of neglect and rot had taken their toll.
Graeme said: “I fell in love with the place as soon as I saw it. I really liked the old bar and wanted to keep it, but it had been damp and once we peeled back the layers a lot of it was rotten, so a lot of the features were not salvageable.
“We have managed to save the beams though which I think adds to the atmosphere. I like that there’s no natural light as it gives it a snug feel. We want this to be a place where you can come in with your friends and talk to each other without the music being too loud. We’ll be open from 11am each day so people can come in for working lunches, as we have USB ports with all the plugs, or just come in before a meal for a drink.”
Graeme says so far people have welcomed new life being breathed into the old pub.
“We’ve had so much response from people walking past,” he said. “A lot of people remember it as The Vestry and as 5th Avenue, everyone seems to have different memories of nights out here.”
Speaking about the new name, he said: “I toyed with the idea of keeping it as The Vestry but it didn’t seem to fit. I chose The Albert because of my grandads who were called Albert and Robert.”
Drinks-wise, the pub has the standard range of beers and spirits, as well as Brooklyn and Cruzcampo on draught.
There are also plans to install a kitchen and start serving food in the coming months, as well as hosting performance nights.
Graeme said: “There’s a lot happening in the city centre and it’s important to give people a variety of pubs.”
The Albert pub is situated downstairs in The Vestry buildings, the upstairs of which houses Victorian Eve’s tearooms.