ONE of the biggest empty shops in York city centre looks set to be turned into a bar and café.

Council planners have approved proposals to convert the old Army & Navy Stores at the top of Fossgate, which closed last summer after 93 years.

Businesswoman Rachel Greaves, of Cleethorpes, said she wants to cater for groups such as “professionals, thirty-somethings, older families and beer connoisseurs”.

In a letter to the council, she said: “The business will not be aimed at the youth market but will be an organic café and bar with speciality beers.

The emphasis will be to create a relaxed atmosphere where people will generally be served alcohol at tables.”

She stressed she was not looking to open a traditional pub or nightclub-style bar, and said she did not envisage noise problems.

There will be a small retail area on the ground floor, mainly for bottled beers, and the rest of the ground and first floors will be for food and drink. The second floor and attic will be for storage.

Ms Greaves’s planning agent has told the council that the venue will close at midnight, rather than 3am as first suggested, and said only background music would be played.

The application to change the use of the building has been approved by a council planning committee but Ms Greaves still requires listed building consent before she can alter the building significantly, said committee vice-chairman Coun Ian Gillies.

The changing nature of the beer market in recent years has seen increased demand for non-traditional venues, leading to a proliferation of continental-style cafés and more modern pubs such as The House Of The Trembling Madness in Stonegate in York and The Attic above Café Harlequin in King’s Square.

Guildhall planning panel had objected to the latest application, saying York could not afford to lose more city-centre retail space and plans for further coffee houses and restaurants should be discouraged.

Ms Greaves said in her application that it would create five full-time and seven part-time jobs.