Halifax restaurant Inn Cognito to close after 35 years

The owner of the Inn Cognito restaurant in Halifax says the time is right for him to close after 35 years.

Stephen Bray at Inn-Cognito, Halifax.
Stephen Bray at Inn-Cognito, Halifax.

Stephen Bray, 62, is retiring from the business this Sunday and believes he is the longest-running restaurateur at the same premises in Yorkshire.

“I’ll miss it incredibly,” he said. “I’m terrified of giving up because it’s been my life. Thirty-five years is more than half my life.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

“You only have to look at the pictures on the wall and there’s Hannah Cockroft with her two gold medals - she’s been a customer since she was a baby.

Stephen Bray at Inn-Cognito, Halifax.

“The memories are incredible. When I shut I’ll be really upset, and when I eventually sell and leave, I’ll be even more upset.

“We’re booked up because all our regulars who have been coming for years have booked in for the final weekend.

“I don’t know what I’ll do some days because I’ve worked in catering since I was 15. I started in the pub trade with my dad when I was 11.

“I opened my first restaurant at 25. But I’ve got to do something different, I’ve got to look after myself and enjoy my retirement.

Stephen Bray at Inn-Cognito, Halifax.

“I’ve loved it, it’s been the majority of my life, but it just feels like it’s the right time.

“Halifax is changing. When I first came here it had two or three restaurants.

“Seven restaurants opened in the same month in Halifax in 1982, including Flashman’s, the Cherry Tree, ourselves, a burger place and an American diner.

“The Courier interviewed all the owners, and I said only the fittest would survive, and now none of them exist.

“Chris Turczak opened Flashman’s and sadly he died last year. He was only two years older than me, we’d been friends for years, and that made me think ‘do you want to go just like Chris went without having time to do what you want?’

“I’ve two grandchildren so I can spend more time with them, I can start playing more golf, go abroad more often and walk my dog.”

Stephen, who lives above the restaurant, was born in Lancashire and went to catering college before working in hotels, and then worked in the first two pizza restaurants in the north of England.

Stephen says the opening of chain restaurants at Broad Street Plaza had a damaging effect on his business.

“The industry’s changed dramatically,” he added. “It’s always been a tough business to stay in, which is why you see restaurants come and go.

“They think it’s either too hard work, they’re not making enough money or they’re having to work every weekend, so they move on.

“This is why the longevity of Inn Cognito is so unusual.

“People used to eat out more often but eating in is the new going out now.

“You have delivery services that offer anything you want delivered to your door.

“But when people do go out there’s so much more competition.

“It will continue changing but I won’t be part of it. I’ve done my bit.

“I’ve enjoyed every single minute of it and I’ve worked really hard.

“I remember having to stand in the bar on a chair with a list of names of people waiting for tables because we were that busy. People were queuing outside the door.”