Shameless York promoters are cashing in on Willow’s closure
Mansion and Fibbers are both hosting unofficial Willow nights
Three separate club nights are vying to take over as the new home of Willow, much to the despair of the popular venue’s owners.
Mansion, Fibbers and an unspecified backer are all trying to cash in on the closure of the much-loved Willow Disco.
The events, which have all popped up on Facebook since the club’s closure, all borrow from Willow’s distinct artwork.
Promises of cheap drinks and cheesy music will sound familiar to regulars – with some promoters even being brazen enough to imitate the notorious night’s offer of free prawn crackers.
The first event is to be hosted by Fibbers every Sunday, the same night on which the legendary Willow closed two weeks ago.
The event description reads: “Every Sunday DJ Max from Willow bring you all the Cheesy music with £1 shots and drinks from just £2 all night long free entry b4 11pm just £2 after”.
However, Mansion have also laid claim to Willow’s crown, hosting their own evening with the same DJ just three days after.
Their event description says: “The legendary Restaurant may have closed but the Wednesday night Take-Away is taking your Drink & Prawn Cracker orders at Mansion every Wednesday night.
“Willow DJ Max will be playing all your favourite Willow Anthems, the same Willow drinks and offers will be joining us as well. There will be entry deals, cheap drinks, great music, Willow tee-shirts and even PRAWN CRACKERS !!!!”
Both of the event pages are almost identical, having been clearly adapted from the original “Love It or Hate It” Willow poster design.
A third night has also claimed to be carrying on Willow’s legacy, although details about it are significantly more low-key.
Billed only as “King Fong Mondays”, the page comes with little more than the promise that “the legacy lives on” – although pictures of Tommy’s own birthday celebrations suggest it may be the most legitimate of all.
However, none of the new nights have as yet been confirmed as official by the Willow Disco itself – meaning York students have been left confused about which is the best contender.
English and Creative Writing 2nd-year Sam Sleney said: “I’ve been one of the students who stayed in York from term-time throughout the holidays, seeing all these new nights.
“They’re just pale imitations, clinging onto what it was that made York’s nightlife good.
“Come September and a new year of new people, you won’t hear of Willow outside of 3rd year veterans stood beside chip vans at 2am, wishing it was still about.”
The confusing scenes are reminiscent of Leeds’ vicious Quids In promo war last year, in which the closure of a popular club night saw a war of words between promoters battling to pick up the profits.
When we asked Tommy Fong how he felt about the copycat nights, he said: “In a way, it’s flattering.”
In an official statement on the Willow website, Tommy elaborates. He says: “The closure of the Willow Disco on 37a Coney Street has prompted some venues to host Willow themed nights.
“Whilst flattered that there are so many people and companies paying homage to the Willow, we would like to affirm that these events are not in any way endorsed by the Willow Disco.”
The statement continues: “The Willow was the Willow for a number of different reasons. As many of our loyal customers attest, it was more than prawn crackers, cheap drinks and cheesy music.
“Tommy and Soo Fong, the doormen and all the Willow’s staff were fundamental to the Willow’s belief in mutual respect.
“The venue itself was unique. For 43 years, it was a Chinese restaurant by day and a Chinese disco at night in the very centre of York. There is no address other than 37a Coney Street that hosted a genuine Willow Disco.
“We would like to respectfully ask event organisers not to use original Willow artwork or any part of the original artwork for their business’s own promotional purposes.”
Tommy’s daughter Vicki (who designed the original Willow artwork) has vented her frustration with the copycat nights on Facebook, calling them “feeble attempts to draw punters in”.
Whilst DJ Max may have seem to have moved on pretty quickly, the other Willow DJs we spoke to via the Willow Disco Stories Facebook page are less keen to jump ship.
They said: “Tommy Fong himself has given us permission to carry on the Willow name to carry on the love we have for the venue.
“So we are currently making plans and having meetings with various venues to allow us to do daily Willow club nights rather than weekly ones like Max has done, to offer similar drink deals.
“We’re wanting Max involved on those nights too, on the nights where he has no commitments to other clubs.
“Nothing is confirmed yet as it’s all still up in the air, but readers can be aware that we will release information soon about where the new night using the Willow name will be.
“And we won’t be using any of the art, but brand new designs from scratch.”