Another York shop to become a café: ‘Enough!’ say retailers

Too much caffeine? Photograph: Rachel Lees on Unsplash
3 Jan 2018 @ 7.22 pm
| Business, Food & drink, Shopping

Another large shop in the centre of York is set to be turned into a café, under new plans by one of Britain’s biggest chains.

Caffè Nero wants to open in 19-23 Feasegate, immediately opposite its rival Costa’s biggest branch in the city.

If the plans are approved, it will be Nero’s fourth branch in York. It already has cafes in Davygate, Coppergate and King’s Square.

The Feasegate site has been a shop for many years, and the plans have reignited long-running concerns about York shops being turned into cafes, bars or restaurants.

York Retail Forum says no more shop premises should be converted to other uses.

Long retail history

The building was recently occupied by the New Stories toys and books shop. Photograph: Gavin Aitchison

The Feasegate building’s most recent occupiers have been bargain book sellers on short-term leases, but previous tenants in the past 20 years included Boots, Country Casuals and the womenswear shop CMD.

The directors of CMD said in 2016 that ‘incredibly expensive’ business rates and the rise of out-of-town shopping had influenced their decision to close.

It was reported in the Press at the time that the landlord had decided to try to attract other businesses to generate a greater rent.

The building dates to the mid-1800s, with a newer 20th-century frontage.

Caffè Nero intend to fit the building out in their usual colours of black, copper and pale blue, and it will have 69 seats inside.

‘We are at a peak’

Caffè Nero on King’s Square. Photograph: YorkMix

The coffee chain insists its plans would improve the appearance of the building and be a positive development for York.

In their planning documents, the agents say the aim of Caffè Nero is to “integrate into the local environment and culture. York is noted for its rich variety of shops, restaurants, pubs, banks, building societies and various agencies.”

But Phil Pinder, chairman of York Retail Forum, said: “We do not want to see any more shops turned into cafes, restaurants or food outlets.

“We are at a peak. It’s nicer than having an empty shop, but do we need another coffee shop? We are a fantastic shopping city.”

Long list of closed shops

The former Starbucks in Coppergate. Photographs: Richard McDougall

He pointed out that Starbucks had closed two of its York branches (in the Coppergate Centre and on the corner of Stonegate and Low Petergate) and said ‘time would tell’ whether Nero’s move was a wise one.

In recent years, many buildings that have been shops for generations in York have closed to make way for cafes, bars or restaurants.

Notable examples include The Army & Navy Stores, Barbican Bookshop and Macdonald’s furniture shop, all in Fossgate (now Sutlers, Fossgate Social and Cosy Club respectively); Portfolio Studios in Micklegate (now BrewDog); Swarovski in St Helen’s Square (now Carluccio’s); Christmas Angels in Low Petergate (now Five Guys); Laura Ashley in Little Stonegate (now Turtle Bay); and JJB Sports in King’s Square / Goodramgate (now Wagamama and Caffè Nero).

Fourth York outlet planned… Caffè Nero. Photograph © ceyhunorhon on Pixabay

Mr Pinder said he had met recently with Make It York and York BID, and said: “We are looking to put together an event where we can invite landlords of shop units and prospective businesses and try to sell York to them.

“York has a unique perspective. Cities like Leeds might have double the footfall, but it’s often the same people. We have seven million unique visitors so if you open a shop here you see more different people.”