York students and alumni mourn Willow closure

We lament the end of York’s favourite worst nightclub

Ah, the Willow Restaurant, the best worst disco in York. The city’s ginnels and snickets may be bristling with pubs and clubs, but the club on Coney Street was the only venue to attain cult status.

A familiar stomping-ground for students since 1973, the Willow’s many quirks will remain a vivid memory for years yet to come: the dubiously sticky floorboards, the pounding beat of cheesy pop anthems, the complimentary prawn crackers…

It’s little wonder that the club’s closure caused a stir. At first, the rumours spread quickly across social media, though not everyone believed them:

Word even traveled as far as the Capital:

The Guardian ran a story on the closure in which Willow was dubbed – a little generously? – “the Berghain of York”. Elsewhere, an online petition was launched on change.org that called for English Heritage to designate the disco as an official “living heritage” site.

But the online grieving really began when proprietor Tommy Fong comfirmed his retirement and the club’s closure for good. He told the York Press that “the time is now right” to fold, and then everybody really got upset.

The first stage was denial:

But gradually came acceptance.

Already Willow is the stuff of (unverified) legend:

Yet words will never be enough for some former patrons.

Willow’s true essence has been captured by the pictures taken by photographer and York alumna Ceri Oakes (English Language and Linguistics; Langwith College; 2008) the night before Fong shut up shop forever.

Note the empty shot glasses, the haunting corridors, the Willow stamps left to fade forever…

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