It might not be getting its world-class Roman Quarter visitor attraction, flats and offices anymore.

But Rougier Street in York’s city centre should be in better spirits next month.

March sees the opening of the Hooting Owl and Curious Cat Distillery in the former Society Lounge and Bar.

A £400,000 investment been spent on refurbishing the former nightclub to create a new distillery, which is relocating from its current nest at Barmby Moor, Pocklington, along with a couple of bars, lounge, shop and visitor centre.


When the Press called on Thursday, Hooting Owl founder Dominic M’Benga and his team of workers were getting ready for the opening, just weeks away.

Receiving a guided tour Dominic said a downstairs lounge would feature leather chesterfield settees and a tartan carpet.

And something appropriate from a former military man, the lounge would also feature a Victoria Cross Wall, giving the names of everyone in British history who has received this top UK military decoration. The wall will be made from oak barrels, whose pieces will feature the names.

York Press:

“The barrels will be sanded down, with the name of a VC winner. It will tell people a lot about the history of the UK,” Dominic explained.

And there’s more barrels upstairs, with metallic beer barrels used in the gents toilets.

The ladies, however, will be something regal, with two gold thrones and artworks from the ‘AirBrush Earl.’

The toilet door will be made of solid oak, there will be a make-up area and tartan carpet.

Back downstairs is another bar featuring alcohol-free flavoured tonics on tap.

This will add to the Paulaner Lager from Munich, which Dominic says is ‘the best in the world.’

He also says his venue is the only one in York that has it on draught.

York Press:

Also taking shape is an extensive wine rack, which promises a large selection of red wines, white wines, Proseccos and champagne, which will be served in both bars.

The downstairs bar will be open from 9am and will serve food.

Upstairs will feature a member’s lounge, also with chesterfield settees and tartan carpets, and weekend memberships will be available.

Dominic says this will allow those dining in the city who want to stay out after dinner to enjoy ‘somewhere nice’ rather than a noisy nightclub.

There will also be a smoker’s terrace, which has yet to be refurbished when we called, and cigars will be sold on site.

Dominic said: “It’s going to be upmarket but we won’t be expensive. It will be the same prices as elsewhere in York if not cheaper. The Paulaner will be £5 to £5.50 a pint.

“We will have exceptional deals on spirits because we make them in-house.

“There will also be a retail shop, which will also offer coffee, spirits, t-shirts, souvenir cups and mugs.”

It all seems quite a change from what was planned, as this building was also to be part of the Roman Quarter. But a stone floor on one level gives a nod to the Roman Road said to exist four metres underneath.

York Press: Dominic M'Benga

As The Press left, I passed through an exit that will contain the machinery, the bottling and printing equipment to finish off York’s new future, alternative attraction.

Dominic said: “On this site, we will be making rum, gin, ‘I Can’t Believe its Not Bourbon’ and brandy, all made in-house and bottled in-house. We will be the only distillery within the walls of York and we are launching our own York 1864 Gin.”

The opening is due in the second week of March, with a pre-launch event just before.

He added: “We are all excited and looking forward to bringing something unique and quality to York.”