One of the North East’s best-known leisure groups has announced plans to open a new venue in Sunderland.

Vaulkhard Group, which has been operating in the region for some 30 years, has revealed that it will open its first Sunderland venue beneath the new Keel Square Holiday Inn.

The company, which is behind Barluga, The Bridge Tavern and Redhouse, has signed a lease for a ground floor unit alongside The Botanist, which confirmed its plans to open in the city in the summer.

The new venue will be the firm’s nineteenth in the North East, its first south of Tyneside.

The venue will serve food and drinks during the day and into the evening, with the Group expecting to announce the brand and showcase it’s plans for the interior in the coming months.

Oliver Vaulkhard, founder of Vaulkhard Group, said he had been attracted to Sunderland having seen the vision of the council to transform the city centre.

“We have only looked to Newcastle and further north for new venues in the past, but there really is a sense that Sunderland is transforming, and we want to be part of that,” said Ollie.

“This really is urban regeneration on scale that is going on at Riverside Sunderland, and we see the opportunity that presents for us as a group.

“There’s such positive energy about the place, and the right people are around the table driving the regeneration of Sunderland.

“People who believe in the city, have a vision for its transformation and also have the skills and connections to deliver it. It’s a really exciting time to be coming to the city.”

The venue will stand next door to award-winning bar-and-restaurant The Botanist – famed for its botanical interiors, quirky cocktails, signature hanging kebabs, live music offering, and venues adorned with tropical plants and foliage – delivering a complementary offer.

Ollie added: “Alongside The Botanist and the bars and restaurants already in the city centre, we believe we can create a really compelling offer, that will support the daytime and evening economy in the city and provide great places for the many thousands of people who will live and work in Riverside Sunderland to enjoy.”

One of four retail and leisure spaces at street-level beneath the soon-to-be-completed hotel, Vaulkhard Group will create around 30 new jobs, as well as delivering a stylish new venue for residents and visitors to enjoy.

An exact opening date is yet to be confirmed, but the company has applied to the council’s licencing team to enable it to trade from the unit and the aim is spring 2023.

Keel Square is at the epicentre of Riverside Sunderland, the award-winning new urban quarter that is being held up nationally as the UK’s most ambitious regeneration project.

Vaulkhard Group’s move to Sunderland has been supported by Sunderland City Council, forming a key new addition to the leisure offer.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Vaulkhard Group to the city – a brilliant new addition to Sunderland and testament to the transformative effect of the work we’re doing at Riverside Sunderland.

“We want Sunderland to be a spectacular place to live, work and play, so attracting operators of this calibre to add to the city centre offer we already have is brilliant.”

The bar is part of the new £18m 120-bed Holiday Inn Hotel at Keel Square which is close to completion.

North East based property firm Bradley Hall assisted in bringing Vaulkhard Group to Sunderland.

Neil Hart, group managing director at the firm, said: “We’re pleased to have supported Vaulkhard Group with its move into Sunderland.

“We’re sure it will be a huge success and will really enhance the city’s hospitality and leisure offering.”

The Keel Square hotel development is being brought forward by Cairn Group, and plans were first approved in 2019, with works commencing in 2020.

The plans have been part-funded by Canada Life, a commitment secured by Avison Young, and will create additional accommodation that will support an increasing number of visitors to the city.

The keenly awaited addition to the city centre will create 130 jobs when it opens its doors.

The hotel is one of a number of significant developments complete or underway in Sunderland city centre.

Between them, the projects will transform Riverside Sunderland, which will become home to 1,000 ultra-sustainable residential properties, business premises comprising 1m sq ft of space that will welcome up to 10,000 workers and leisure spaces and public realm for people to enjoy.

To stay up to date with developments at Riverside Sunderland, visit or follow @RiversideSund on social media.