Wrecker's ball fails to beat down Asiania

Restaurant-cum-nightclub faces last dance as building renovation awaits

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 March, 2013, 3:14am

China's late leader Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s famously promised Hongkongers that even after the handover in 1997, both "horse racing and dancing will continue".

The horse racing continues but the dancing is getting few and far between.

Deng kept his word but changing lifestyles have meant people now tend to go to karaoke bars to sing with friends or go internet dating rather than go dancing.

This may explain why the city's many nightclubs, which boomed in the 1970s and '80s, have been disappearing one by one since the '90s.

One of the most well-known, the Asiania Restaurant in Asian House on Hennessey Road, Wan Chai, also is under threat.

Established in July 1972, the restaurant was set up by a number of local businessmen and brokers. The restaurant, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last July, was once a popular dancing and dining spot for brokers.

When it was first set up, it operated as a dim sum plus nightclub restaurant - a common occurrence in the '70s as it allowed best use of the location.

In the morning and at lunch, it served dim sum. In the afternoon, it featured a live band and served afternoon tea while people danced. In the evening, it turned into a banquet hall.

After midnight, it turned into a nightclub with a live band and popular local singers for people to listen and dance to.

Back then, many brokers could be seen on the dance floor after the stock market closed, followed by dinner with their customers.

However, in the mid-'90s, such nightclubs fell out of fashion as people preferred to sing in karaoke bars or go across the border for entertainment.

Asiania Restaurant no longer offers afternoon dances or the nightclub but it still serves dim sum lunch and banquet dinner services. Its in-house roast pork is a favourite with many diners in town.

However, the newest threat to the restaurant is the planned renovation of the building by the landlord.

Restaurant manager Chan Hoi-cheong said the restaurant had been due to close in May but it has won a temporary reprieve as the redevelopment plan may be delayed. Talks are under way with the landlord on extending its tenancy.

However, Chan believes an eventual move to another location is inevitable. As a result, Asiania's management is looking at suitable locations nearby. The restaurant's shareholders have given their backing for the search for a new home.

"We have a team of chefs, waiters and waitresses who have worked together for almost 20 years. We provide food which is value for money for the staff of neighbouring offices, and we would like to keep our business going to keep out staff employed and to service our customers," Chan said.

He said the city's restaurant businesses never need to worry about attracting customers because people enjoy eating out. The key challenges, which also affect many other restaurants, are the pressures brought on by the presence of many rivals and high rents.

This all goes to show that if you want to run a business in Hong Kong, you'd better be the owner of your shop or restaurant.