THE owner of a legendary York nightspot has revealed why it is closing down this weekend after almost 80 years.

Late night discos have been staged at The Willow in Coney Street since 1973 and it has been a business since 1936, but owner Tommy Fong has now confirmed rumours that the last dance will take place on Sunday evening.

He said his lease for the premises in Coney Street from its owner Aviva had expired in 2012, since when he had operated under a 'tenancy at will' lease, allowing the landlord to terminate it at any time, and he had been given four weeks to vacate the building.

Now, with his 70th birthday approaching, he had decided it was time to call it a day and retire.

York Press:

The Willow was originaly a cafe - its sign is visible in the top corner of this 1962 photograph

"I originally said when I was 55 that I would retire at 60, and when I was 60 I said I would retire at 65," said Mr Fong, who runs the Willow with his wife Sue. "I would probably have gone on a few more years but think the time is now right."

He said the news had been greeted with great sadness by customers, particularly students for whom The Willow had become very popular.

An online petition has been launched on, calling for English Heritage to designate The Willow as an official 'living heritage' site and claiming: "If this closure goes ahead, York's night-life will be permanently ruined, as all that will be left will be a choice of generic nightclubs that can be found in any large town or small city."

York Press:

An online petition has drawn hundreds of genuine and spoof supporters

The petition has been signed by 438 people, who have posted comments including: "Willow is everything about a York night out," "It is the highlight of any night out in York and its removal will drastically change the city," and "Willow is life and life is willow." A spoof video, entitled 'Hitler Reacts to the News That Willow is Closing', has also attracted almost 12,000 hits on Youtube.

Mr Fong said the petition could not save the Willow, which was originally the name of a cafe that opened in 1936.

He kept the name when he opened what was then a restaurant as well as a disco. The business had primarily been a disco for the past eight or nine years, and he wanted to thank City of York Council for allowing this to happen, and the police for helping to ensure there was rarely any trouble there. "The police have been fantastic," he said.

He also thanked three generations of York residents, students and visitors who had danced the night away there.

An Aviva spokesman said he could not comment, other than to say it understood the tenant was vacating the premises on Sunday.