New venue looks to raise the bar for employees
A not-for-profit bar and café has opened its doors in Sunderland city centre, serving up more than simply food and drink.
Diego’s Joint, in Sunniside, will provide job and training opportunities to those that have found themselves furthest from the job market – for a variety of different reasons.
A first-of-its-kind concept for the region, the organisation is the brainchild of social entrepreneur Dan Makaveli, with support from designer maker, Leon Garshong and former bar owner Simon Burdus.
Serving an array of sustainably sourced soft, hot and alcoholic drinks, the venue will also provide events space for community groups as well as food and snacks made from local produce.
Situated in the heart of Sunniside, an up-and-coming creative quarter on the edge of the city centre, the social enterprise is an offshoot of Media Savvy, which was founded by Dan back in 2010 and is headquartered above the Norfolk Street venue.
Whereas Diego’s will serve up hospitality training and job opportunities, Media Savvy has been providing digital training for the past 12 years to some of society’s most marginalised, helping hundreds of people improve their lives.
Speaking about the launch, Dan said: “We came up with the idea behind Diego’s a few years back however it wasn’t ready to go until just before Covid struck, so it’s fair to say it’s been a far bigger slog and expense than we’d initially anticipated.
“We knew the Media Savvy model worked, as we’d seen the organisation help scores of people over the past 12 years, so we thought ‘why not extend it to have an even deeper impact?’
“For some of the people we work with, it’s about maintaining, for example, stopping them being hospitalised or re-offending, but that’s just a small percentage.
“A larger proportion have had a dip, for whatever reason, and now want to get back into work, which is where we can really help them. Most of them are more than capable of holding down a job and achieving great things however they lack education and experience to do it, which is where Diego’s comes in.”
Simon Burdus joined the team as operations manager, having previously been the owner and operator of city centre venue, Bavaria. “It’s been odd but at the same time very refreshing to be in a position where I’m thinking more about the impact we’re having on people’s lives rather than our bottom-line,” he said.
“Dan and I have known each other for a number of years so when he pitched the idea of joining them to set up Diego’s, I jumped at the chance.
“To be really helping change people’s lives is just so rewarding and I can’t wait to begin hosting our first customers and employees.”
The latest ONS figures show the UK hospitality sector has a ‘record’ 174,000 jobs available and the team are confident that, should Diego’s be as big a success as Media Savvy, it could be a model that is quickly rolled out across the country.
“As well as working with local businesses to overcome their staffing issues, we’re also looking at establishing partnerships with some of the big chains to create further opportunities for those we engage with,” Dan added.
“Most of those we work with have either never worked or have spent a long time away from work for a variety of reasons, be it health issues, social mobility challenges or criminal records, which means many employers won’t give them an opportunity as they can’t prove that they have recently held down a job.
“We’re helping put an end to that. By helping them prove they can hold down a job with little-to-no sick days, the relevant training to take up their new roles and the confidence to hit the ground running from day one. The impact it could have is huge and there’s no reason this model can’t succeed elsewhere. For us, this is only the beginning.”
Diego’s Joint has received support from the Business Investment Team at Sunderland City Council and the Innovate for Good programme delivered by the North East BIC, both of which are committed to nurturing and growing the city’s social enterprise and cooperative sectors.
Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “We’re delighted to see Diego’s Joint finally open its doors, building on everything that Media Savvy is already contributing to the city, and I’m sure it’ll be a fantastic addition to the Sunniside Quarter.
“Over the last few years, Sunniside has received significant investment to help attract new businesses to the area – especially those in the creative and social enterprise sectors – and Diego’s, with a focus on giving back to the community it serves and creating life-changing opportunities, is exactly the kind of organisation we love to work with.”
Diego’s Joint will be open seven days a week, 8am – 11pm and 1am on Fridays and Saturdays.