New Sunderland city centre restaurant and cocktail bar gets green light for outdoor terrace

CGI image of how new outdoor area at The Muddler could look at Keel Square, Sunderland
CGI image of how new outdoor area at The Muddler could look at Keel Square, Sunderland -Credit:Credit: Collective Design

Plans to bring a new pan-Asian restaurant and cocktail bar to Sunderland's city centre have taken a step forward after an application for an outdoor terrace for customers was approved.

The Muddler, which currently operates in Newcastle city centre, is expected to take over a unit at Keel Square at Sunderland's new Holiday Inn. The restaurant is expected to accommodate more than 150 diners, as well as a cocktail bar area, spread across the ground floor and first floor levels.

A planned restaurant terrace area on the ground floor, linked to the submitted planning application, also aimed to offer outdoor dining and drinking space with more than 100 covers. Proposals included parasols as well as plants and greenery "contributing to a warm and relaxing atmosphere".

After considering the planning application for the external seating area Sunderland City Council's planning department approved it on May 8, 2024.

Council planners, in a decision report, said the plans would contribute to the aims of the council's Riverside Sunderland supplementary planning document (SPD).

This sets out aspirations for the area, which encompasses Keel Square, the former Vaux site and Sheepfolds, to become a "successful business location, a popular place to live and a focal point for civic, cultural and community life".

As part of the planning permission, conditions were added to restrict the use of any outdoor speakers in The Muddler's outdoor area to "background music only".

In addition, an 'hours of use' restriction was applied to the outdoor area between 10am and 10pm.

The council decision report adds: "The proposed external seating to the front of the commercial unit no.3 (The Muddler) will form part of the wider activation of Keel Square and will support the designed purpose of the square as a focus for outdoor activity.

"The proposal is consistent with the manner in which outdoor eating and drinking areas add to the ambience and cultural offer of most public squares in other historic city and town centres.

"The means of enclosing the seating area with planter boxes and some greenery follows a similar approach to the adjacent external seating area for unit no.2 and will have minimal visual impact on the conservation area and setting of listed buildings, especially within the context of the other structures for activities and events that will be regularly seen in the square".

Those behind The Muddler previously said that an opening date for the restaurant and cocktail bar would be confirmed once planning permission had been secured and construction work had begun.

Neill Winch, chief executive at Danieli Group – which owns The Muddler brand – welcomed the planning application for the Sunderland venue being submitted earlier this year.

Speaking in March, 2024, he said: "We have very exciting plans for Sunderland and it's an area and market we know very well because of our experience operating STACK Seaburn.

"The success of that venture has led to us looking at establishing other brands in the city and we hope that the application will get the necessary approvals so we can continue to move forward on bringing The Muddler to the city centre."

For more information on the planning application and council decision, visit Sunderland City Council's planning portal website and search reference: 24/00338/FU4