Building reborn as gallery, pub and restaurants

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 April, 2008, 12:00am

The building containing the Woo Cheong Pawn Shop, one of the Wan Chai shophouses preserved by the Urban Renewal Authority six years ago, has finally passed stringent building regulations and will open to the public this week.

Its 9,701 square feet comprises four shophouses in Johnston Road. The ground floor of the four-storey building will be occupied by an art gallery, the authority said, while the three floors above will house a themed pub called The Pawn and restaurants operated by a private company.

The British-style pub is expected to open on Saturday. Its operator, Joseph Baclay, said hundreds of thousand of dollars had been spent decorating the shophouse. Customers would be able to sit on the large verandahs or the roof-garden to enjoy city views while being served food and drinks. Lifts and fire escapes had been added to meet regulations.

The shophouses, built in 1888, were restored by the authority at a cost of HK$15 million in 2005.

Lee Ho-yin, director of the University of Hong Kong's architectural conservation programme, said the revitalisation project would be more successful if the pawn shop had been invited to stay. The pawn shop moved to another street after the building was acquired by the authority.

Dr Lee, who studied the history of shophouses in Hong Kong, said the shophouses preserved by the authority were different from those found in Guangzhou.

'Shophouses built in Hong Kong have back lanes and larger verandahs,' he said, and their style was influenced by British building regulations imposed to improve hygiene after the plague in 1894.