MALTON'S old town hall - which has stood empty for nearly five years - could be transformed into an upmarket bar and restaurant.

The company Stew and Oyster Ltd, which operates four bars in the Leeds area, has applied for a licence for the building in the centre of Market Place.

Previously occupied by Malton Museum, the Grade II-listed building underwent a major restoration by the Fitzwilliam Malton Estate, however, has since remained empty.

Tom Mountain, operations director of Stew and Oyster, said it was early days but they had submitted an application for a licence for the premises.

"We have been in talks with the Estate for several months and it has now got to the point where we are able to move forward but at the moment nothing is set in stone," he said.

"We get a lot of potential sites to look at, including a couple of properties in Malton, but it was only when we opened our bar in Otley and dipped a toe in an out of town place that we considered it could work.

"The old town hall is an amazing place and Malton is a very similar place to Otley in that it has a real community aspect and feel."

Stew and Oyster first opened a small bar in Leeds City centre in 2009. It has since been extended twice with new bars opened in Oakwood, Otley and Boston Spa.

Tom added: "We are very community minded and a people championing brand - not just a bar that does food. We want more than to just create amazing experiences for our guests, we want to be at the heart of the communities we serve and regarded by our customers as a fundamental part of the places where they work and live."

The company is planning to attend the annual Food Lovers Festival in Malton, as well as local farmers' markets to gauge local support.

"Our aim is to research what the town is looking for - what makes a local a local - and get a feeling what people want, not just to recreate a brand," Tom said.

"The town hall is a phenomenal building and hopefully we will have an opportunity to provide something the community is looking for in Malton."

Tom Naylor Leyland, from the Fitzwilliam Malton Estate, said “Stew and Oyster are a superb high quality bar and I am thrilled that they’re thinking of moving in to the old town hall. What’s clever about Stew and Oyster is that they truly want to be a place for the whole community.

"If you’ve visited them in other parts of Yorkshire you will already know they have a great reputation and no doubt will breathe life into such a fine building. I am also delighted that they plan to have lots of outside dining too.”