Restaurants targeted by officials in raid on 'Rat Alley' in Lan Kwai Fong
Officials swoop after complaints about tables causing an obstruction in Lan Kwai Fong
It's known as "Rat Alley" in Lan Kwai Fong - but it was customers and restaurant owners who were left scurrying for cover after a raid by Food and Environmental Hygiene Department officials.
Up to 10 officers were involved in the raid on Wednesday that saw three restaurants closed down for the night in Wing Wah Lane - a short alley that extends off D'Aguilar Street and which got its nickname because of the rodents that used to inhabit it. A spokesman said the department had received several complaints recently about obstruction caused by tables and seats placed outside the restaurants.
He added: "We conducted a blitz operation at the locations [mentioned in the complaints] last Wednesday night, during which the restaurants found with illegal extensions of food business were summonsed under the Food Business Regulation.
"Each restaurant had tables and chairs beyond the confines of their food premises and had exceeded their floor plan. The maximum fine for this is HK$10,000 and three months in prison."
One restaurant customer said that the government officers were too heavy handed in their treatment of restaurant owners and staff during the raid.
Many diners also had their meals disrupted by the behaviour of the officials.
One owner, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, has run his restaurant in Wing Wah Lane for 10 years.
He said such raids would just chase tourists away at a time when the government was trying to attract them to the area.
"Businesses are not all on the same level playing field in Lan Kwai Fong," he said.
"The government is cracking down on small businesses here because we are an easy target."
Allan Zeman, dubbed the "Father of Lan Kwai Fong", had sympathy with the restaurant owners because they were trying to earn a living in tough financial times.
But he said that if what they were doing generated complaints from residents in the area, then the government had no option but to act.
He said: "I have sympathy for both sides as these restaurants are very much a part of Lan Kwai Fong, but the government is also only trying to do its job."
The government spokesman would not comment on the methods officers used on the night in question.
The department also refused to name the restaurants that were summonsed.