IT was certainly a Good Friday in Rougier Street yesterday, with the ‘Grand Opening’ of the Hooting Owl and Curious Cat distillery.

Everybody was in good spirits, enjoying the plush surroundings, comfort and excellent drinks with friendly service in the former Society Lounge and Bar.

There was beers, ciders, lagers, an extensive range of wines, not to mention the variety of artisan gins, vodkas and rum now made on site following the relocation of the business from Barmby Moor, Pocklington.

A soft launch earlier in the week allowed some ‘walk-ins’ curious at the new arrival to sample the wares and experience a major new destination to the York visitor scene and ‘break’ the staff in gently.


There was also a day for the hospitality and trades attracting 150 guests and on Thursday, YO1 Radio also enjoyed a ‘fab evening’ broadcasting from the venue.

Friday’s opening saw many family, friends and neighbour’s with a military bent, given distillery owner Dominic M’Benga’s army heritage. Guests of honour included a couple of Chelsea Pensioners.

The wider public were able to enjoy the delights of the distillery in the evening, with its first full day today (Saturday).

York Press: Dominic M'Benga with one of the drink mats made by the distillery staff

In addition to the lounges and bar, there will also be a shop and tours of the distillery with tastings, will also be available. In several weeks’ time, food will also be offered.

Glen Allan from York called the premises ‘fantastic’.

The fellow army veteran has served with Dom in the Prince of Wales Own Regiment of Yorkshire and also helped with the renovations of the former nightclub. They also motorcycle together.

Glen continued: “It’s very upmarket. It’s great to be able to come here and relax. The people will be friendly to everybody. I think it’s great, fantastic. Hopefully, it will thrive.”

Chelsea Pensioner Jan Brodie-Murphy describes Dom as an ‘extra-ordinary man’ who has done ‘extra-ordinary things.’

Jan continued: “To bring this together. It’s absolutely beautiful. It’s first class. It’s got to be a gem in York.”

Chelsea Pensioner Alan Gill agreed.

York Press: Smiling staff are ready to serve

“Dom has faced real adversity but he has really got on with it. He had a vision and has gone from strength to strength.”

“The venue is very comfortable, very classy. Anyone can come in and enjoy themselves.”

Photographer Lee Bullivant, who had also served with Dom, said he had done a great job.

“It’s fantastic, a lovely venue.”

Ben Patchesa, who lives nearby, said: “It’s great that somewhere that is good is now on this side of the river. Hopefully, it will prove a magnet for other nice places to open.”

Wife Dawn added: “There’s a really great selection of gins.”

Friends of their’s added: “It’s funky, chilled, classic.”

Laura Dickson said: “It’s lovely, really nice. I like the décor. Everybody is friendly and welcoming.”

Victoria Fieldhouse added: “I enjoyed the gin very much.”

I did too and you could say the opening was a real hoot!