Tin of Sardines reveals stunning plans for new seaside venue

A popular hospitality group has revealed stunning plans to breathe new life into an historic building overlooking the iconic Roker pier.

The Davis Family, which owns and operates Durham’s Tin of Sardines – the world’s smallest gin bar – has announced plans to bring its successful gin emporium and restaurant concept to the city, with the opening of a new venue at Roker.

The family has agreed a 10-year lease with Sunderland City Council for the former Roker Toilet Block on Pier View - adjacent to the Bungalow Café – and is set to invest over £60,000 into the refurbishment of the site, creating 10 jobs.

This will follow £250,000 investment from Sunderland City Council, assisted by grant funding courtesy of The Coastal Communities Fund, to ensure the premises are ready for a tenant to move into. The income from the lease will support the Sunderland Seafront Trust, which operates the Roker Pier and Lighthouse tours and the new income will help it to organise a range of seafront events and activities.

Founded by father and son business partners Lord Trevor and Ben Davis, the pair made headlines when they opened the first Tin of Sardines venue on Durham’s historic Elvet Bridge in 2017, with the venue holding just 16 people and stocking over 200 varieties of gin.

The concept proved such a success that the pair opened a second venue in Trevor’s hometown of Poole, a popular seaside town on England’s south coast, renovating a former newsagents and contributing to the conservation and restoration of the town’s famed shoreline.

Trevor and Ben are now hoping their first foray into Sunderland with Tin of Sardines – which will ‘foster a more relaxed atmosphere and be more food-focused’ – will follow in the success of its previous two sites and help contribute to the ongoing transformation of the city’s seaside.

Ben said: “The Tin of Sardines business has been a real success since we first opened our doors in Durham three and a half years ago and we’d been mulling over a third venue for some time until we saw the former Roker Toilet Block hit the market.

“As someone born and bred in Sunderland and as a family embedded in the region’s hospitality industry for decades, we knew this was too good of an opportunity to turn down and were sold on the idea of bringing the concept to the city as soon as we set eyes on it.

“Tin of Sardines is built on providing a quaint, relaxed atmosphere, where people can meet, eat and drink away from the hustle and bustle. Identifying locations that nurture such an environment has been one of the key factors in our success and for my money – with its breath taking views of the promenade and idyllic location – there aren’t many sites in the North East that could come close to this aesthetically.”

The plans for the redevelopment of the unit – which the family hopes to have open by Summer 2021 - include the construction of an open kitchen, a hanging garden terrace overlooking the sea and the offer of an array of cuisines, from breakfasts and coffee mornings to evening brunches and locally sourced seafood and steaks by night.

He added: “With a garden terrace to the rear and an open kitchen and bar, the venue will offer some of the city’s finest views while serving up some of the finest locally-sourced produce and some of the world’s most sought-after gins.

“We can’t thank Sunderland City Council enough for giving us this unique opportunity and we are looking forward to working with local traders as we craft our new offering and breathe a new lease of life into the site.”

Sunderland City Council has spent more than £10m on seafront regeneration and improvements over recent years, with award-winning environmental and street-scene enhancements helping attract developments such as at Seaburn Stack, the Seaburn Inn and a host of new businesses to Marine Walk.  It’s a key part of the wider transformation of the city, including the city centre, which is attracting hundreds of millions of pounds of investment into Riverside Sunderland.

Councillor Rebecca Atkinson, Sunderland City Council's Cabinet Member for Dynamic City, added: “We are absolutely delighted to be welcoming Tin of Sardines to the city and it fills us with even more pride to see a local family returning home to invest in the city.

“The Council and its partners have invested millions of pounds in the seafront over recent years and it’s great to see this bearing fruit with the attraction of success stories such as Tin of Sardines. We’d like to wish them all the best for the future.”

The lease for the building was advertised over summer 2020 through Sunderland based commercial property surveyors Lofthouse and Partners and interest was strong with scores of bids from interested partied.

Cllr Atkinson said: “The level of interest these buildings attracted just goes to demonstrate how appealing our seafront is, and we’re ensuring that we create a high-quality offer that can be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike, creating a vibrant seaside destination.”