Tommy Fong and Willow were forced into retirement

Downfall of a York legend

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Tommy Fong was evicted from the Coney Street property where Willow has stood for over 40 years by insurance giants Aviva to make way for a card shop.

In an exclusive interview with The Tab, Tommy revealed his sadness at being given just four weeks to notice clear to out of the legendary restaurant disco combo he’s run for 43 years – so high street retailer Clinton Cards can move in.

He said: “At the beginning of July they gave us just four weeks notice to clear the entire place out. It was a nasty shock and it wasn’t very nice.”

The letter bearing the bad news

York superstar Tommy had been negotiating a new lease for Willow since October 2012. Lingerie specialist La Senza had occupied the ground floor of the property for years, but things began to change when Clinton Cards moved in. Tommy believes they played a big part in Willow’s closure.

“They haven’t given us a reason for the eviction. They kicked us out. I would be devastated if they gave the top floor to somebody else.”

Tommy took the lease over from an Irish couple named the O’Briens back in 1972. They’d run a pub called Willow since 1936. Now this rich history has been eradicated.

Gone but never forgotten

Tommy’s sadness at the circumstances of Willow’s closure are tempered by a sense of satisfaction with what he and his wife achieved.

He said: “I’m upset with the way it ended but I feel great pride in what we built up and the following Willow had.”

Tommy has now retired, against his will. He’d wanted to run Willow for a few more years before going out on his own terms, as he deserved. He plans to go on holiday across Europe, visiting cities across the continent like Venice and Berlin.

A spokesperson for Aviva said: “We can’t comment on this other than  to say that it is intended that the new tenant will be taking over the entire premises but we are unable to give any more information at this stage.”