A long empty York bar looks set to be reborn.
The Society Lounge and Bar on Rougier Street shut during the first lockdown of 2020 and never reopened.
More recently it was home to the Blueberry Academy pop-up shop, selling gifts and homeware.
But now it is all set to become the permanent HQ of The Hooting Owl & Curious Cat Distillery.
That will see it reopen as both a distillery, making crafted gin, rum and more, and a bar selling cocktails made with the same.
The distillery will be created on what was the dancefloor, with a gin palace / speakeasy style bar in the L-shaped space around it. Upstairs rooms will be available for private hire.
Plans are now in with City of York Council for the new signage on the outside of the Society Lounge.
They have been submitted by the bar’s owners, Russ Brown and Nip Judson of McMillan York Ltd, doyens of the York nightlife scene, who run Club Salvation which is almost the opposite Society Bar.
Hooting Owl was set up by former soldier and entrepreneur Dom M’Benga in 2018. It is currently based at Barmby Moor but is rapidly outgrowing those premises.
Creator of six distinctive gins, Hooting Owl sells its artisan spirits in shops and pubs and direct to the public via its website.
It is a major shareholder in Curious Cat, a Manchester based company which distills gins and rums.
After the plans for the Roman Quarter went awry, Dom approached Society’s owners and The Owl & The Cat plan was born.
Mark Stredwick of Hooting Owl told YorkMix: “It will be a distillery first, a bar second, and a tourist destination third.”
Visitors will be able to tour the distillery then have a drink in the bar afterwards.
He said they would be aiming at a “slightly older” crowd than the students who are typically associated with Club Salvation.
Everyone was very excited about the move, said Mark, who ran the popular Brewtown Tours before Covid got in the way.
But the amount of work required to create the new distillery and speakeasy means it may be early next year before it opens.
You can read the planning application here.