• Sun
  • Nov 23, 2014
  • Updated: 11:17pm
CommentInsight & Opinion

Greedy landlords and worship of luxury goods are killing best of old Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 April, 2013, 3:51am

Another Hong Kong-style restaurant bites the dust. Ngau Kee Food Cafe, which has been serving neighbours and office workers in Sheung Wan and Central for 62 years, said farewell to its last customers on Sunday, another casualty of landlords seeking higher rents and more prestigious tenants.

The cha chaan teng shared the fate of the Czarina Restaurant, a localised Russian eatery that served rich Borscht soup and steaks to faithful customers in Mid-Levels for half a century before closing in February. Czarina's landlord took advantage of the property boom and sold it for a record sum.

In January, Lei Yuen Congee Noodles in Causeway Bay - famous for its wonton noodles, pork liver congee and rice dumplings - closed after the monthly rent doubled to HK$600,000.

Ngau Kee's operator, Mak Ping-keung, said his landlord refused to renew his HK$49,000 lease for the 1,300 sq ft restaurant. The site can easily fetch a much higher rent.

It sits in Gough Street, an area that used to house many popular restaurants. But upmarket boutiques and houseware shops have moved in and displaced them in recent years. Old-style shops have closed or moved far away to escape skyrocketing rental prices in Central.

Many of the best-known shops and restaurants, the ones that have come to define old Hong Kong, have been forced out of business. They are rapidly being replaced by brand-name boutiques and high-end luxury shops. At this rate, Hong Kong will soon become another generic, antiseptic Asian city with little character of its own.

Luxury mall operators, developers and landlords are reaping enormous profits, but at the expense of killing what makes our city unique and interesting. Every world-class city has its own character. It is such intangibles that make a city great rather than just another modern city. It's sad that many Asian cities, including Hong Kong, worship luxury goods and brand names, mistaking them for true prosperity and modernity.


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Real estate is a parasite industry - adds nothing to real economic growth
I love the old HK and love to find old shops in which to rummage, but on my last visit at the end of 2011 I only found one real 'junk' shop - the area had turned into boutique central. What a disgrace.
As I'm from the UK I'm used to a good mix of chains and independent shops and restaurants, hidden gems down back alleys. I agree, this is dangerous road. As much as I adore HK, I am sick of walking through fancy shopping malls (although the AC is wonderful), and was rather put out to find yet another mall at the Peak, a large re-development of Stanley Bay and the new development at Ngong Ping - all complete with the main chains. Have a Subway by the Buddah, and a McDonalds at the top of the world!
I personally don't have the money to spend in fancy shops in HK or anywhere for that matter and don't feel the need to keep up with the latest fashions, and I'm sure there are many like that who'd rather enjoy scouting around for the real HK - real food, real people and real life.
On that note, please for goodness sake government, don't tear down any more old historical buildings or it really will become a generic version of any other city.
We in Hong Kong must raise our sensitivity. We must go beyond the intangible to the tangible. The value of old business that makes what Hong Kong is becomes intangible in the eyes of bean counters – landlords and developers and the government too. Hong Kong as a place with a history must, for example, the custard cake, and wonton noodle joints must make them tangible as part what Hong Kong life is. Chinese love to defend Chinese history yet in Hong Kong and mainland China, Chinese can’t be more contradictory when comes to preserving history. Forget the hollow accolade of the freest market in the world by the annual self-interested Heritage Foundation, Hong Kong must preserve its own heritage – make the intangible tangible.
hard times !
fully agree that many local shops and well-known restaurants have been forced out of business by the skyrocketing rents in recent years.These over-greedy landlords instead rent out their premises to brand name boutiques or high-end luxury shops.Soon,Hong Kong will lost its past altogether and has little past to be remembered by our future generations ! What a pity indeed !
The greed of these HK landlords is just unacceptable; they say they love HK, they don't! They would do anything to HK, its inhabitants and probably their own family for just a little more money. Over the years, they've managed to demolished most of traditional living apartments and push us into batteries-chicken flats; Reason? Not enough flats for HK people! Big LIE: HK has an ageing population; in reality, there are enough flats for all of us. But the Gvt should stop giving away 100 Permanent ID to Mainlanders PER DAY (since 1997); HK doesn't need to import labor anymore all factories have relocated to China! So why? Simple, MONEY!! Money to tycoons and money to HK Gvt. Today HK, stripped off of its orginal charm is becoming more and more aggressive. HK is already one of the most expensive city in the World and becoming one of the most unpleasant city to live in. It won't take long before International companies based here will soon relocate their expats to Spore, Bgk, KL and Manilla... cheaper and better life style. Then, the only International community remaining would be Mainlanders; well known for their good manners... HK will become a Chinese City just like any other mainland city!
But don't worry aboutthe Landlords tycoons will retire from HK with their families to nice properties in NZ, Australia, US, CDN or even in a wine Chateau in France.
hongkonger in beijing
Really sad, one day HK will look like Beijing, full of shopping malls with all the same shops, a city without soul but at least rich landlords and developers.
"It's sad that many Asian cities, including Hong Kong, worship luxury goods and brand names"
I think the point is not right.
It's the people who buy it (not to mention Mainland) who push the trend.
The trend has been going upward since they are allowed without limit to come and shop.
So please slap the Tourism board face when they dare to say that it promotes local development. Just see by yourself how it is promoted. We are becaming a city of leather bag and shoes sales. Yay
"Greedy landlords and worship of luxury goods are killing best of old Hong Kong"
For me, greedy landlords and an obsession with shopping are far more synonymous with HK than "old style" anything...
hard times !
to speak the truth, this Old Hong Kong:pflim040 really pity these old Hong Kong shops which grow up with me in the past decades. Now the over-greedy landlords or landladies plus people's preferance towards brand goods and luxurious ones have made these shops to bite the dust ! What a pity ! This Ngau Kee Food Cafe happens to be one of them only !
I hate luxury goods, and I love Ngau Kee and old school local eateries, but I still think the headline is unfair.
Perhaps: 'rational landlords, unbridled free-market capitalism, and China's policy on luxury goods destroy Hong Kong treasures'



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