Cocktail fans in Sunderland will be raising a glass, as Sheepfolds Stables announces that a contemporary cocktail operator will join its diverse line-up.
Founded by life-long best friends Daniel Lemon and Ashton Williamson, who were both born in Sunderland, Yem aims to be the region’s best cocktail bar offering a unique concept that merges the classical and contemporary, the international and the local.
The venue will deliver high-end cocktails with a North East spirit, but inspired by world-famous cocktail bars.
Ashton, who embarked on his cocktail-making career at Revolution, where he climbed the ranks to Head of Brand and Training, said: “While working in and managing some of the best bars in London, Edinburgh and abroad, we always asked ourselves ‘why can’t we have this back yem?’. We were always incredibly keen to return to our roots and bring something new and unique to our hometown.”
Ashton has managed international cocktail venues in London, Manchester and Edinburgh, including the world-famous Portobello Star Cocktail Bar in Notting Hill and Dandelyan in London, which was named World’s Best Bar in 2018 during Ashton’s tenure. Daniel is an actor, writer, producer, and director, who returned to the North East in 2018 to open the Newcastle based creative and education hub The Actors Forge, now one of the region’s leading training and education centres for budding thespians.
The pair are working together to create their new flagship cocktail venue in the Grade II listed venue – located in Riverside Sunderland – which is currently being transformed by Sunderland headquartered architecture and engineering practice Building Design Northern (BDN).
Daniel said: “Sheepfolds Stables is such an incredible venue, with stunning architecture along with a presence and sense of scale that is really unique to Sunderland. Operating alongside some of the best food and drinks providers in the region, such as Si King, was an opportunity we simply couldn’t pass up.
“The unique vision of quality and speciality presented by Rick Marsden, who is MD at BDN, was incredibly appealing to us and the creative and collaborative working relationship we have developed since has made the entire process of planning and designing the venue an absolute joy.
“Our vision is to create a modern, forward-thinking, high-quality destination that can truly put Sunderland on the map as a city of culture, cuisine and now drinks. Yem will be a grand, beautiful venue, with a touch of class and a welcoming feel. We want all of our customers to feel at Yem.”
Yem will serve a range of classic and original drinks using local inspiration and ingredients and has plans to partner with another Sheepfolds tenant, Speyside Distillers, to create a unique whisky and gin experience for customers. The venue will also host cocktail masterclasses and tasting events.
The venue will serve cocktails that make use of an innovative new drinks system from Sunderland-based business Jetchill, creating smoking drinks using dry ice snow that add some theatre to the cocktails being served. The system was the brainchild of experienced leisure entrepreneur Bob Senior, and he is looking forward to seeing Yem make use of it when the venue opens.
He said: “Jetchill has been at the forefront of innovation in the leisure trade for 10 years, with our Jetchill system and our new Flavour Blaster, created and shipped from our base in Sunderland. We are really excited to collaborate with Yem to deliver our award-winning drinks systems to their cocktail concepts at Sheepfolds Stables.
It is an incredibly exciting time for Sunderland, and as a local business, it is great to see the positive seismic changes that are taking place in the city. With Flavour Blaster now selling over 40,000 units in 143 countries around the world, we look forward to working with Yem to raise the bar for drinks in the North East.”
Yem is expected to create new full-time and part-time job opportunities for the area when it opens, and is looking to employ local people and provide long-term training and development in bar tendering, service and management.
The cocktail creatives will complement the diverse line-up of food, drink and leisure operators moving into the vibrant leisure venue, including Hairy Bikers star Si King, Speyside Distillers, The Calabash Tree and Southpaw Dance Company. Tamar Hassan, a skilled chef who has worked in some of the world’s best restaurants, will also open an Asian-inspired restaurant, Hidden Lotus. The venue is expected to open in late 2023.
Rochelle Richardson, a director at Building Design Northern which has an office in Ulverston as well as Sunderland, said, “We have such a diverse range of ambitious business owners and entrepreneurs on board at Sheepfolds Stables, all with a passion to bring something really special to Sunderland. We are excited to be working with Daniel and Ashton, as they bring their cocktail-making skills, hard earned across years in the industry, back to their home city.
“With a distinct offering to complement the other fantastic businesses already lined up for the venue, we are delighted to add Yem to an exciting line-up that will establish Sheepfolds Stables as a centre of excellence in food and drink.”
Planning permission was granted for the Stables’ transformation in May 2022, paving the way for the existing Grade II listed buildings to be transformed into a new, creative destination, for food, drinks, events and entertainment. BDN has been supported with its plans for the building by Sunderland City Council.
Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Sheepfolds Stables promises to deliver a fantastic food and drinks experience, with an eclectic mix of occupiers who are all different, but united by a passion for raising the bar. We’re delighted to be supporting in bringing brilliant new businesses like Yem to the city.”
The Sheepfolds area will be connected to the city centre by a new footbridge, providing a pedestrian and cyclist crossing, with the wider area being transformed as part of Sunderland City Council’s Riverside Sunderland plan. The masterplan includes number of large-scale developments in the city centre, with the ambition of doubling the area’s residential population and increasing employment by 50%.