It has a £5m plan to turn the disused ABC cinema in Park Lane into a nightclub, restaurant and bar.
The licence brings new hope that other pub operators will be tempted into the city.
Sunderland council is planning a £500m scheme to transform the city centre, including turning the former West Sunniside Post Office into a huge late-night bar and restaurant.
The main way to open new premises
until now has been to transfer old licences from other establishments.