Rejected – Secret café-bar plan thrown out over noise and crime fears

How the Secret Square bar would look. Photograph: Licensing documents

A new café would deter homeless people from sleeping in a courtyard in the city centre and promote Kurdish culture in York, according to the owners.

But plans for Secret Square – where the owners wanted to serve alcohol late into the evening but insisted the venue was a cafe – were turned down by City of York Council’s licensing committee.


The owners applied for a licence to open their business, reopening the locked Hornbys Passage, off Stonegate. It would operate from 11.30pm on weeknights and 1am on Fridays and Saturdays,

But residents living next door and neighbouring shops objected to the plans. And police and the council’s public protection team also said the licence should be refused because it would add to city centre drinking problems.

‘Low-key and neighbourly’

A locked gate prevents access to Hornbys Passage. Photographs: Richard McDougall
Jonathan Rodger, barrister for the applicant, said: “We really don’t want to make things worse. We want to run a cafe in which we can enjoy, promote and share our Kurdish and Turkish culture.

“It is quite low-key, slow, familial and neighbourly – but it is also nocturnal.”

He added that the courtyard has been used by rough sleepers and homeless people – with the empty building falling into disrepair and “attracting this kind of behaviour”.


Staff at The Stonegate Living Company said rough sleepers had managed to get into the courtyard – which is usually locked – and that this meant employees had faced intimidation, found drug paraphernalia and rubbish.

And neighbours living in Stonegate Court said they were worried about noise and anti social behaviour from the bar.

A ‘huge bar’

Inside Hornbys Passage. Photograph: Licensing documents
PC Kim Hollis from North Yorkshire Police told the committee proposed images of the venue showed a huge bar – with bottles of alcohol, tables and barstools – meaning drinking could lead to a rise in crime and disorder.

And Michael Golightly from the council’s public protection team said there were “major concerns” about noise – with the authority already receiving complaints about sound from bars and buskers in the area.

The applicants offered to compromise on issues – but the police questioned how the changes could be properly managed.