Hong Kong wedding banquet firm sets new record for Lunar New Year stall – and expects to lose money

ClubOne paid HK$820,000 for prime site at fair entrance; last year its winning bid was HK$630,000

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 November, 2016, 5:09pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 November, 2016, 11:02pm

The prime spot at the annual Lunar New Year fair was auctioned off to a wedding banquet and restaurant company for a record HK$820,000, smashing last year’s record – set by the same company – by almost HK$200,000.

As the hammer went down on Monday, ClubOne chief executive George Wong Fuk-wah knew that no matter how much money the stall would make during the Victoria Park fair from January 22 to 28, it would not be able to cover costs.

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“We have done the maths. What we make will definitely not be able to cover the costs,” a smiling Wong said. “Last year, we invested about HK$2 million and we lost HK$500,000. But it’s still worth it.”

Wong’s company won last year with a bid of HK$630,000. Together with other expenses including decoration and turning the area into a Japanese spring festival, it cost HK$2 million.

He admitted that he felt “a little bit” of heartache having to splash out so much on the 7.6m by 4.8m stall at the entrance to Victoria Park, believing at first it would cost the company around HK$500,000.

Still, he said, it was worth the money as long as Hongkongers had fun at the most important festival in Chinese culture.

The theme in January will be Chinese sky lanterns.

“Demon chef” Alvin Leung of the Michelin-starred Bo Innovation restaurant has been invited to come up with the list of food to be sold at the stall.

The only two other food stalls – smaller than Wong’s and at the opposite entrance to Victoria Park – went for HK$350,000 and HK$553,000.

Meanwhile, flower sellers are expecting strong business in January because demand for flowers has been high. But they were divided over whether they would raise prices.

Lau Hoi-to, known as the “king of peach blossom trees”, said it had been raining too much in the past few months so the flowers may be too “raw” to blossom by January. Still, he had no plan to raise his prices.

But a woman who has won the same spot for the past three decades said she was ready to raise her prices. Last year, she paid HK$40,000 for the site. It cost her HK$66,000 this year.

She and other bidders noticed there were more mainland bidders this year, pushing up stall prices.

Food and Environmental Hygiene Department senior superintendent Wong Tak-fat said this year’s auction drew more bidders than last year.

They seemed to be optimistic about business prospects this year, judging from how some stalls went for a high price, he said.