Shek O

Officials unwilling to compromise over seats and eateries at city's beaches

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 December, 2011, 12:00am


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The article ('Sun goes down early on beach food kiosks', November 28) implies that standardised furniture is being introduced due to noise complaints, but this is not the case. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department decided as policy to install its own furniture upon kiosk contract renewals, at St Stephen's in Stanley in 2009, with Shek O, Big Wave Bay and Deep Water Bay following suit. None had noise issues. Now South Bay, Middle Bay and Stanley main beach will incur the same fate.

If we are talking about the red herring of noise complaints, of the 12 in the last year mentioned in the article, only a few concerned South Bay (where I have a bar), hardly a 'deteriorating' situation, as the department alleges. The point is that there are no mechanisms in place for the public to have input on its public spaces, nor understanding of the decision-making process, be it the beach, railings on our hiking trails, or harbour.

Yet regarding the beaches, there's plenty of scope for compromise. There are public space precedents - at IFC, Queen's Pier, heritage buildings - where private operators were allowed to decorate space with ample signage designating it as public.

Further, beach dining options should be as inclusive to tastes and budgets as possible, particularly with beaches that don't have other dining options, and the department does oversee menu creation for this reason. But do we want all beaches to be homogenised, or is there scope to accentuate each beach's character, based on neighborhood and demographic of users, to create something unique at each one?

Seven years ago I and fellow entrepreneurs dreamed of framing these beautiful locations with nice food and decor, to make them world class. I went from running one beach to four, as we had tapped into an unmet public demand. Am I now to believe that the government's heavy-handed, one-size-fits-all, bureaucratic solution is more in tune with what the public wants?

Actually, the beaches of Asia's world city have already arrived: South Bay beach club was written up in last month's launch of Louis Vuitton's first ever city guide for Hong Kong. But next year, instead of a restaurant, you will find a kiosk with bolted-down, uncomfortable, metal, prison-yard furniture perhaps selling pre-packaged goods, and us beach-loving businessmen, whose dreams have been quashed, have voluntarily moved on, rather than backwards.

Kenneth Howe, owner, Varga cocktail lounge, SoHo