‘Staggering!’ All these York shops have become bars or restaurants in just eight years

Cosy Club opened in the former Macdonalds furniture store on Fossgate in 2017. Photograph: Cosy Club
3 Apr 2018 @ 6.52 pm
| Business

Forty two shops in central York have been turned into cafes, restaurants or bars in just eight years, a new study by YorkMix has found.

A further ten could also be set to change following recent planning decisions, as pressure mounts on retailers.

The study shows the full extent of a trend that has caused concern for many in York for some time, and has prompted fresh calls for action from the city’s retail forum boss.

This interactive map shows the scale of the trend in the city-centre. Each of the 42 red markers on our map shows where a shop has been replaced by a café, bar or restaurant in the past eight years.

The ten green markers show where conversions could be imminent.

The full list is at the foot of this article.

Quite shocking



Swipe to see the change… What was Portfolio Studios on Micklegate became Brewdog. Photographs © Google Street View

In some streets, the change has been considerable. There have been five such conversions in Micklegate, four in Low Petergate and three each in Fossgate and Walmgate.

Goodramgate has had two, with planning permission granted for a further two.

We collated these figures by studying eight years of City of York Council planning decisions.

The numbers don’t include sites where cafés have replaced non-retail businesses, such as Spring Espresso replacing the old Yorkshire Post office in Fossgate, nor areas outside the city centre such as Acomb and Haxby, where the trend has been evident, but to a lesser extent.

Phil Pinder, chair of York Retail Forum, said: “I guessed it would be high, but it’s quite shocking it is that high. It’s staggering really.”

A great story to tell

A taskforce was set up last month to attract more retailers to York city centre.

“We need to be proactively targeting retailers, in a targeted way, to bring them in,” said Phil.

“We have a great story to tell in York. We have a great city and great things to sell to retailers in terms of our unique footfall.

“York’s footfall is much better than somewhere like Leeds because it’s different people coming all the time.”

Andrew Sharp, head of business at Make It York, told YorkMix his organisation had produced a retail brochure setting out reasons to choose York, and had used it to target retailers.

He said they had also worked closely with Indie York to promote independent businesses, with the BID to improve the appearance of empty buildings and with agents and landlords.



Church Street, as Ponden Mill transforms into Yo! Sushi. Photographs © Google Street View

Restaurant chains

Mr Pinder welcomed the city council’s recent decision to refuse a licence for Revolucion de Cuba, who wanted to open a huge bar in much of the old BHS site in Coney Street and New Street. He said “hopefully that’s the first of many”.

He said difficulties affecting mid-market restaurant chains could lead to more empty units in York, but said it was difficult to turn restaurant premises back into shops.

Strada in Low Petergate recently closed, and national chains such as Byron, Jamie’s Italian and Prezzo, all of which have branches in York, have reported difficulties.

The trend is not wholly new, of course, and Make It York says the rate of closure was steeper between 2000 and 2005, when examples included Costa moving into the corner of Market Street and Feasegate (formerly The Link) and Meltons Too (now Walmgate Ale House) replacing Ellerker’s in Walmgate.

Changes in the opposite direction have been extremely rare (Old Orleans became Tesco, and Starbucks on the corner of Stonegate and Low Petergate became Jo Malone).

Long term trend

Historical figures held by City of York Council show the wider conversion trend since the start of this century. In early 2000, the whole of York had 1,876 businesses classed as “shops, banks, post offices etc” and 151 “restaurants, cafes etc”.

By the end of 2017, the first figure had dropped to 1,832 while the second figure had increased by 57 per cent, to 237.

For many years, York’s Local Plan Policy S3a had to be taken into account in planning matters. It said no more than 35% of the frontages on any street in the main shopping area should be for non-retail use.



Coney Street, with Jane Norman turning into Bill’s. Photographs © Google Street View

But that figure has been exceeded in several streets, including Low Petergate and most notably in Feasegate, where only two retail shops remain.

That old policy is now being superseded by the city’s emerging Local Plan, which proposes a more liberal approach, accepting of a mixture of retail and food uses side by side in the city-centre and supporting other uses.

Consumer demand is rapidly changing

Mr Sharp, from Make It York, said: “York has successfully attracted a variety of new eateries and restaurants.

“Many of the city’s businesses benefit from having a lively and vibrant city centre and the café and restaurant culture is an important element of this.

“Consumer demand is rapidly changing around retail too. Customers don’t just visit to buy but for the whole leisure experience of dining, stopping for coffee and shopping.

“By attracting new eateries, York is providing an experience people are looking for. What we want to stress, however, is that we believe York has a very strong retail offer and new shops are opening up in the city all the time, with more in the pipeline.”

A spokeswoman for Make It York said: “York continues to have a vibrant retail core and to attract new retailers.

“While there have been closures, recent additions have included Jessops, Sweaty Betty, Crew, Seasalt, Marchbrae, Abraham Moon and others.”

She added: “There is a higher percentage of leisure units than the national average (36% v 25%) but this serves a big tourism economy so is what you’d expect and, as importantly, there is also a higher proportion of comparison goods (non-food retail), at 34% v 29%. The difference is made up from having fewer convenience and service units (hairdressers etc) than the average.”

Gone but not forgotten



Then it was Thresher’s offie, now it’s Costa Coffee. Photographs © Google Street View

Remember when these were shops? Here are the city-centre conversions so far this decade – and a look at the ones coming up…


  • Caffe Nero opened in King’s Square, where part of Newitt’s then JJB Sports had been
  • Costa Coffee took over the corner of Museum Street and Lendal, after the closure of Thresher’s
  • Jack Wills in High Ousegate closed and became a branch of Costa Coffee
  • One Boutique in Peter Lane closed and became De’Clare restaurant. It’s now Bruks


  • Athena picture shop in Feasegate became Patisserie Valerie
  • Wagamama opened in Goodramgate, where the larger part of JJB had been
  • Mannion’s greengrocer shop in Blake Street closed, and was turned into a café/restaurant
  • Barbakan, the Polish food shop in Walmgate, relaunched as a café/restaurant


  • Yo Sushi opened in Church Street, where Ponden Mills had been


  • York Hog Roast opened on the corner of Goodramgate and Low Petergate, where Yorkshire Book Clearance had been
  • One of the gift shops in Shambles was replaced by Shambles Tavern
  • Your Bike Shed replaced Bar Lane Studios at the top of Micklegate. It’s soon to be taken over by the owners of Fossgate Social
  • Banyan opened in Little Stonegate, where the rear of Borders bookshop had been
  • The Lawrance café, linked to the above apartments, opened in Micklegate, where French House Antiques had been


  • Chico’s Cafe replaced Barbican Bookshop in Fossgate, then in turn was replaced by Fossgate Social
  • Jane Norman in Coney Street was replaced by Bill’s restaurant
  • Veeno opened in Piccadilly, following the closure of Etruscan Wines
  • Cosmo opened just off Bridge Street, where Argos had been. It is now Panda Mami
  • Bicis Y Mas opened in Walmgate, after the closure of GA White furniture shop. It’s soon to become Ambiente Tapas


  • Sutler’s opened in the old Army & Navy stores in Fossgate
  • The old Laura Ashley shop in Little Stonegate became Turtle Bay restaurant
  • Cruz in Grape Lane became an extension of 1331 bar and restaurant
  • Cave du Cochon opened in an old jewellery shop in Walmgate
  • Wall To Wall Interiors in Grape Lane closed, and became Lucia’s café, an off-shoot of the nearby restaurant of the same name
  • Pavement Vaults opened where Jessop’s had been, on the corner of Piccadilly and Coppergate


  • BrewDog opened in the Portfolio Studios building in Micklegate
  • Half of the old Greenwood’s menswear shop became a restaurant, Source
  • Imaginative Icing baking equipment shop became Spring Espresso
  • Pairings wine bar opened in Castlegate, where Fashionista had stood
  • Timberland in Low Petergate was replaced by Wildwood restaurant
  • The Botanist opened in part of the old Mulberry Hall site in Stonegate
  • Part of Cycle Heaven in Bishopthorpe Road was turned into a café bar, Angel On The Green


  • Lucky Days opened a new branch in Low Petergate, after the closure of the Collection Box gift shop
  • Cosy Club opened in the old Macdonald’s furniture shop in Fossgate
  • Carluccio’s opened in St Helen’s Square, where the Swarovski shop had been
  • Five Guys opened in Low Petergate, in place of the Christmas Angels shop
  • The Bridal Lounge in Micklegate became a café, FortyFive
  • Corky’s toy shop in Museum Street became Brew & Brownie Bakehouse
  • Granville’s hardware shop in Micklegate became Coffee Bureau
  • The Ivy opened in St Helen’s Square, where Black’s outdoor shop had been


  • Humpit opened in place of the Trade Nation game shop in Church Street
  • The old Robson and Cooper shop in Lendal is currently being turned into the new House Of The Trembling Madness

Still to come

  • Planning permission has been granted to turn the old That’s Entertainment shop in Coppergate into a café or restaurant
  • Permission has also been granted to convert the RSPCA shop in Gillygate
  • Caffe Nero has been granted permission to move into the old CMD clothes shop in Feasegate, which had more recently been a bargain book shop
  • Developers want permission to change the use of the Monsoon shop in Parliament Street, including potentially as a bar
  • Permission has been granted to convert part of the old BHS building into a restaurant and/or drinking establishment, although the initial plan by Revolucion de Cuba was rejected by a licensing committee
  • Plans have been submitted to turn the old Homecraft shop in Lawrence Street into a bar
  • City officials are considering a planning application to turn the 420 Skate shop in Goodramgate into a café
  • Permission to turn the Travelling Man shop in Goodramgate into a café was granted in September 2017
  • Permission to convert the old Herbert Brown shop in Jubbergate was granted in August 2017
  • Permission has been granted to convert the old Trespass / Nevisport site in St Sampson’s Square