Is this the end of the Willow? Legendary restaurant and disco ‘to close this month’

Late night landmark… The Willow on Coney Street. Photograph: Richard McDougall
5 Jul 2015 @ 8.02 pm
| Food & drink

Legendary restaurant and nightspot The Willow may be set to close.

The Coney Street venue has been a staple of students and revellers for more than 40 years. But it has posted this message on its Facebook page:

Sad times. But the willow will be closing its doors on Sunday 26th July.

This was followed by another post on Sunday night (July 5):

It is true. The Willow will be closing its doors for the final time on Sunday 26th July.

This news comes from a very reliable source within the venue.

So many great memories have been had at the Willow and we have 21 days left to make many more! Let’s send the place off in style!

No other details have been forthcoming, and we’re still waiting to talk to the owners.

But the stark announcement drew shock and consternation on Facebook.

Willow was the sole thing keeping me in York. The end times are upon us.

– Kiran Tanna

Worst news ever

– William Chalk

wtf are we gonna do

– Lily Leotardi

A few were less devastated by at the news…

I think I speak on behalf of most of York when I say this but…ABOUT TIME! Can you bring it forward a week so I’ll still be on holiday?

– Matt Gamblin

Some had mixed emotions.

Awful place. Great memories.

– Simon Hinken

A couple were sceptical…

Tommy wouldn’t let this wonderful cash cow die. With each year the legend grows stronger and the myth lives on.

– Kurt Reilly

I ask the owner the other day and they told me they r not closing yet

– Tim Zimmermann

And at least one person decided to take direct action.

We cannot let the willow community die. All we really need is a place to assemble. Let’s do Willow flash mob style.

They have already started a Pop-up Willow Facebook page.

Big part of the city

The street level entrance
The street level entrance

You either love the Willow or hate it, and owner Tommy Fong embraced that with Marmite-style branding.

It is most popular with students and night owls for its mixture of good value food, a jumping disco and a late licence till 4am.

The web is awash with pix of people in the advanced stages of an evening’s hard partying hitting its small dance floor.

A colourful part of York’s night scene since 1973, The Willow is not to everyone’s tastes. This is the latest review from TripAdvisor:

I feel like I caught chlamydia on entry to this hellhole.

The only thing worse than the awful music and the sweaty customers was the hygiene of the place. The toilets are usually a cool reprieve from the dancefloor, but the toilets here are worse than anything I have encountered.

I would only recommend this sweaty hellhole to my worst enemy. Never come here for a night out.

– Jack M, July 4, 2015

But that’s not everyone’s opinion. This review, from August 2014, was headlined The best place in the universe.

Once a restaurant, now a rather bizarre 20th century disco hidden away in York’s high street.

The Willow lies at the heart of this city’s present day culture, and no trip to York is complete without it.

– Liam The Fizz

And everybody who went to York University has been a customer at the Willow, or so it seems.

We reported how the current acting leader of the Labour Party, Harriet Harman, was said to have dated one of the nightspot’s bouncers when she was reading politics in the city.

Clashed with the authorities

The Willow's Marmite branding
The Willow’s Marmite branding
Since it opened in 1973 – back then it sold afternoon tea – the Willow has been found wanting on a few occasions by the council.

In 2004 the restaurant’s directors Tommy and Soo Mei Fong were fined after food hygiene inspectors found “gunge” and “sludge” in the kitchen.

And the last published hygiene rating for the Willow, from December 2013, has it rated at 2 out of 5 – “improvement necessary”.