Landmark South Shields pub site in line for £200,000 transformation

New owners of the Criterion,  Chris Pickering and Kevin McKeith.
New owners of the Criterion, Chris Pickering and Kevin McKeith.

An historic South Tyneside pub which closed six years ago is set for a new lease of life under plans for a £200,000 modern transformation.

The Victorian-era Criterion, at the junction of King Street and Ocean Road, South Shields, is being turned into a bar and bed and breakfast.

New owners  Chris Pickering and Kevin McKeith outside The Criterion

New owners Chris Pickering and Kevin McKeith outside The Criterion

Drinkers will get to savour a side of the building that few may remember under plans drawn up by entrepreneurs Chris Pickering and Kevin McKeith.

They are to open the former boozer’s three upper floors - with the ground floor that once housed the bar remaining a Ladbrokes shop.

The pals have a 20-year lease for the landmark site and plan to have the first floor bar where food will be served open by September.

A six-room bed and breakfast, which will operate on the top two floors should open by the end of the year.

Chris, 30, who has lived in South Shields for over a decade, said: “I’d had my eye on this site for a long time and it’s great to be in there. We have found so much that is original from around the 1860s when it opened, and it is beautiful stuff.

“We want to keep and restore as much as we can, and that means bringing in specialists to carry out that work.

“The Criterion was once the place to be and we want to make it the heart of the community again.”

Chris and Kevin, 37, also from South Shields, have founded the Two Pints Ltd company to operate The Criterion in what is the largest renovation project either has attempted.

Kevin has managed bars in North Shields and developed smaller properties, while Chris is manager of a national youth organisation and director of Jarrow’s Community Homes group.

The Criterion is believed to have opened in the early 1860s and closed in 2012.

Original features found include cornices, a fireplace, light fittings and the first floor’s wooden bar.

The restoration will maintain the Victorian theme as much as possible, such as the toilets earmarked to have green tiles fitted.

Chris has now urged other entrepreneurs to consider business options in the town centre.

He added: “There are a lot of fine buildings along King Street, and South Tyneside Council’s is investing in its 365 rejuvenation project.

“There’s £100m of investment coming and while South Shields may not be fantastic at the moment, I think it will be in a couple of years.

“I think what the council is being very progressive and trying to make the place somewhere that businesses can thrive.”