Rent row over historic restaurant

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 March, 2005, 12:00am

A Hong Kong restaurateur has denied raising the rent on a Guangzhou restaurant opened by a forebear 120 years ago in order to force its operator out of business.

Andrew Chui Shek-on, who manages Hong Kong's Tai Ping Koon restaurants - modelled after Taiping Guan in Beijing Road in Guangzhou - returned to Hong Kong yesterday to 'allow things to cool off'.

Mr Chui said his extended family had recently retaken possession of the four-storey building housing the restaurant after it had been confiscated in the 1950s, but he was not involved in the property side of things.

'I only found out from our lawyer after I arrived that he had been negotiating with Dongjiang Restaurants to raise the rent to 180,000 yuan per month,' he said.

'I didn't go back to pick a quarrel or to stir trouble. I wanted to see what I could do to reopen the restaurant.'

Dongjiang Restaurants, which had run Taiping Guan for two years, paid the government 40,000 yuan rent, the group's chairman, Li Yongxing , said.

'We hoped [the owners] could accept 80,000 to 90,000 yuan but they refused and took the matter to court which made an erroneous judgment based on the street-level value,' he said.

'I think it is not a straightforward rent increase. They want to drive Dongjiang out.'

A property broker said that rental for street-level space was at least 300,000 yuan.

The Guangzhou Tourism Bureau said Taiping Guan 'should not, must not and would definitely not be allowed to disappear'.

The government would call for tenders to pick the 'best and most qualified' operator to reopen the restaurant.