The new Willow? Party bar opens in York offering food, fun, drink and dancing

Packing them in – Havana Café and Cocktail Bar
17 Dec 2015 @ 7.28 pm
| Food & drink

There has been a large Willow-shaped hole in York’s night life since the legendary venue closed in July.

Revellers have sought solace in other bars, but nothing quite matched up to the Coney Street restaurant and disco.

But we have good news. There’s a new party bar in town: the Havana Cafe & Cocktail Bar in Stonebow House.

Like the Willow, it has…

an emphasis on unpretentious fun
affordable offers on food and drink
cheesy music that makes you smile
a late licence (till 2.30am)
a very good chance that you’ll be captured on video doing some daft dancing.

And like the Willow it is a family-run business too.

Brothers at the bar

Meet the three brothers. Photograph: Richard McDougall
Meet the three brothers. Photograph: Richard McDougall

Havana Cafe & Cocktail Bar is the brainchild of three brothers: Savas Adiguzel, who’s the chef; Ali the bar manager; and Alex, who has a variety of roles. Alex’s wife Emily is involved with the social media side and more.

They worked in different businesses – Alex is a hairdresser. But as good friends of the people who run both the Lucia and Bora Bora bars on Back Swinegate, they got a taste for the bar business.

So when another friend was ready to sell his business, the Jorvik Café in Stonebow House, they made him an offer – and transformed it.

The new look. Photograph: Havana Cafe and Cocktail Bar
The new look. Photograph: Havana Cafe and Cocktail Bar

“The place has been renovated from A to Z,” Alex said. “The flooring was old carpet. We brought back the original concrete flooring with a polish on it.”

How did they decide on the name and theme?

There’s always a revolution in the world, so we liked the idea of a revolutionary bar. It gave it a Cuban feel which appealed to us.

We’re trying to give to people a continental holiday feel. Instead of dark and dingy rooms, we thought why not brighten the place up? So even if it’s just for a day or night, we can give them a good time – like a holiday.

And it seemed right for the area, Alex said. “There are quite a few bars here – Nevermind, the Terrace across the road, Sutlers, Fossgate Social, Pavement Vaults.

“This is turning into a nice little quarter and we are something different.’

Fun, food and drink

ziRevolutionary – certainly by Stonebow standards… Photograph: Richard McDougall
ziRevolutionary – certainly by Stonebow standards… Photograph: Richard McDougall

Havana Café and Cocktail Bar, Unit 4-5 Stonebow House, The Stonebow, York

Mon-Sun @ 8am-2.30am

Facebook page

During the day it has a family café feel. Alex and Emily have three children of their own, and know it’s important to have a place where mums and dads can park the buggies, bring their youngsters and relax.

“As it comes to early evening we hope to have lots of people after work for a very affordable tapas and beers. Maybe two beers for £6,” Alex said.

The tapas starts at £2.90 and goes up to £4.50. The menu also includes burgers, pasta “and maybe, for a Yorkshireman, a steak”.

When we spoke the bar was in the process of getting some hand pumps in to bring draft beer alongside the bottles.

“Cocktails are quite affordable. We are looking to put offers up – £3 a cocktail, £9 a jug of certain cocktails throughout the week, Monday to Friday.”



Some of the early adopters at the new bar. Photographs: Havana Bar on Facebook
Some of the early adopters at the new bar. Photographs: Havana Bar on Facebook

At night they take out some of the lower tables, replace them with higher ones, and make sure there’s room for dancing.

Alex said:

We are unpretentious, a lot of fun, with affordable prices – a chilled place to come and have a good time.

Either during the day for nice food, or early evening for tapas, or late night for some partying and drinks.

They have held their first monthly Salsa session, with a professional dance teacher getting people started with some basic steps – before the party really began.

Quite a change

Alex came over from Turkey ten years ago after meeting Emily. Both brothers joined him in the UK in the last five years.

They come from an area of Turkey on the Syrian border, now a dangerous part of the world.

“It’s just sad to see it get even worse in recent years,” Alex said. “It’s a sad thing, but thankfully our family members are all fine.”

Another view inside the Havana
Another view inside the Havana

Working so closely with his brothers can be testing at times.

“Actually I want to kill them every day,” he laughs. “At the end of the night we make up again. It’s just brothers.

“We’re a very tight-knit family. We do have our moments, like every other family, but I don’t think it’s an issue.”

And the emphasis is all about putting a smile on the city’s face.

We just want people to have a good time without causing any problems to anyone.

It’s for everybody who wants to get out, have a few drinks and let their hair down for affordable prices