About-to-shut Kee Club is being sued for nine months’ rent - over HK$1m - in High Court

Company running exclusive Central club set to close this week says rent was delayed in exchange for waiving management fees, but landlord says there was no such agreement

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2017, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2017, 3:08pm

The company that operates exclusive Central nightspot Kee Club is being sued for more than HK$1 million in unpaid rent, according to a High Court writ.

The writ was filed in the Court of First Instance on January 9 against Life Is Not Ltd by Long Yau Properties Ltd, the owner of the Yung Kee Building at 32 Wellington Street where Kee Club is located. Long Yau is a subsidiary of Yung Kee Holding Ltd, the company owned by the Kam family which runs the famous Yung Kee roast goose restaurant in the same building.

SCMP.com reported last week that Kee Club would be shutting its doors on January 20. The report quoted a Kee spokeswoman as saying the closure was a surprise move, and connected to the family dispute involving the Kam family which has made headlines in recent years.

However, Yung Kee spokesman Sam Leung told the Post: “Kee Club is looking to move out of the current premises because it has not been paying the rent for more than nine months. The decision has absolutely nothing to do with Yung Kee’s family affairs.

Exclusive Hong Kong dining and night spot Kee Club to close this month

“This is a financial dispute between Life Is Not Ltd and Long Yau Properties Ltd; Yung Kee Restaurant operations are not involved in the dispute.”

The writ claims Kee Club management company Life Is Not Ltd’s owes HK$1.48 million in rent and management fees. After deducting the club’s deposits, Long Yau Properties Ltd is seeking HK$1.06 million from Life Is Not Ltd.

Kee Club was founded in 2001 by Hong Kong nightlife impresario Christian Rhomberg and his wife, Maria. Famous faces known to have been to the club include Bill Clinton, Jude Law, Hugh Grant, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kevin Spacey, Vera Wang and Christian Louboutin.

Christian Rhomberg also founded the Lan Kwai Fong nightlife institution Club 97, which shut its doors last year having operated for 34 years, which made it Hong Kong’s longest-running nightclub.

The writ states Rhomberg is the sole director of Life is Not Ltd.

End of an era as Lan Kwai Fong institution Club 97 calls it a day

However, in a statement sent to SCMP.com, Rhomberg said he had waived his fees for managing the venue during a recent downturn in business, which he believed would offset the rent owed.

“During 2016, as the business was slow, Christian Rhomberg suggested to invest more money into the company. Rhomberg informed the Kam family that he would delay rental payments and in return, Rhomberg waived the management fees, which is equal to the rent owed.

“Currently, Kee Club owes HK$1.48 million in rent, but during the same period, Christian Rhomberg also injected an additional HK$2.9 million (which takes into account the waived management fees) to support the business, which is why the rent was in arrears.”

Leung denied there was an agreement between Long Yau and Kee Club about postponing rent payments and said there had been no discussions about waiving any management fees.

The two-level Kee Club incorporates a fine-dining restaurant and upscale nightclub, and is adorned with modernist artworks by the likes of Pablo Picasso and Anthony Quinn. Its nightclub has hosted appearances by many of the world's leading DJs, including DJ Krush, Loco Dice, Danny Krivit and Joris Voorn. 

Kee has been named one of the world’s 10 most exclusive members-only clubs by both CNN and Business Insider, and won the award for private members’ club of the year at the 2011 Quintessentially Awards Asia Pacific.