Distillery reveals planned new venture for disused lounge and bar

Hooting Owl Distillery, a producer of Yorkshire gin, has lodged plans with City of York Council to move its operations within the City Walls.

The site set to become the distillery’s new home is a long-vacant venue on Rougier Street, the former Society Lounge and Bar, which closed during lockdown in 2020.

The proposed location, which will be named ‘The Hooting Owl & Curious Cat Distillery’, will be developed to allow for expansion and to offer visitors “an immersive experience” with a large distillation area, event space and a speakeasy gin lounge, where York spirit lovers will be able to sample a range of craft gin, rum and vodka.

If the plans are approved, the Hooting Owl & Curious Cat Distillery will become the only artisan distillery within York’s City Walls.

The business says it aims to become a destination for gin enthusiasts and tourists, putting York on the British gin drinker’s map by offering daily distillery tours, weekly gin tasting events and catering for private parties, corporate hospitality and business networking groups.

Its new operation, which will open daily from 9am to 11pm, would aim to boost visitor numbers, create seven full-time and ten part-time jobs, and feature an upstairs event space holding 60.

Subject to consent being granted, the business expects to open its new venture in early 2024, when it will relocate from its current base in Barmby Moor, near Pocklington.

The distillery, known for its range of premium North, East, South and West Yorkshire Gin, was founded in 2018 by craft distiller and former soldier, Dominic M’Benga – who incorporates botanicals in his spirits that represent The Royal Yorkshire Regiment and donates a proportion of the company’s profits to veteran causes.

M’Benga said: “This is an exciting time for Hooting Owl as we grow and expand.

“We do intend to stay true to our roots, producing high-quality, small batch spirits, but the new plans will see us join forces with some of our friends in the industry, including The Curious Cat and the Tipsy Toad, which will also be distilled at the new premises.

“York is known for its rich history and thriving food and drink scene.

“We’re hopeful the plans will be approved because we’d love to bring our small batch, artisan spirits into the city, not only to expand our Yorkshire business but to attract visitors and generate new jobs.”‘

New external signage has been submitted in the planning proposal which will display the venue’s name, incorporating Hooting Owl and Manchester-based Curious Cat Distillery, a major shareholder in the proposed venture.

Hooting Owl currently sells its artisan spirits through local independent shops, retailers and pubs and also directly to the public via its website.

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