Hooters in Hong Kong sees figures go pear-shaped as landlord demands HK$1 million in unpaid rent
Owner of bar’s Lan Kwai Fong site kicks off legal action against restaurant chain
Cold drinks and hot women don’t seem to have been enough to keep Hooters well supported, with the American restaurant chain facing eviction from its sole Hong Kong site after failing to pay more than HK$1 million in rent, according to legal documents.
But Hooters Asia – which runs the venue – remained perky about the restaurant’s prospects and insisted it still planned to open four more venues in Hong Kong in the future, despite the sole existing outlet only breaking even for the first time last month.
The landlord of the bar’s Lan Kwai Fong location kicked off legal action against the company on Friday, seeking almost HK$1.13 million in unpaid rent – about three months’ worth.
Lawyers for property management firm Dor Fook Company Limited filed a writ of summons at the High Court on Friday, claiming Hooters had “failed and/or refused” to pay since April despite “repeated demands and requests”.
According to the writ, the landlord wrote a letter to the restaurant at the beginning of last month demanding payment, but Hooters still failed to cough up all the money.
The lawyers want Hooters to leave the property or pay more than HK$371,700 for every month that it remains in it, from September 16.
In April last year Hooters signed a 10-year lease for the Wyndham Street venue, agreeing to pay HK$330,000 per month for the first year, according to the legal document.
Hooters must respond to the writ within two weeks.
Hooters Asia president Daniel Yong, who took over management two months ago, said he was “quite surprised” by the legal action, as he had already discussed repayment with the landlord.
“We are actually quite surprised that this came up, because they have been getting monthly money from us and we have the bills to prove that point,” he said, adding that he planned to have all the outstanding debt paid off in the next two weeks, although he couldn’t confirm the exact figure.
Yong said the former manager resigned from the company earlier this year, leaving a “messy accounting system” and unpaid bills.
“It is a bit of a mess we’re trying to clean up right now,” he said.
The Hong Kong outlet had run at a loss for the first 12 months it was open and only broke even last month, he said.
In 2015, the chain said it was scouting locations for five Hong Kong outlets and, when asked whether the next four proposed restaurants would be going ahead, Yong replied “of course”.
“I’m pretty confident that the business will do well,” he said. “We intend to be in Hong Kong for an extended period of time ... At the end of the day we just want to improve and make more money.”
Yong dismissed the criticisms that the restaurant’s famously scantily-clad women were “old fashioned”, saying people held different opinions.
The restaurant chain attracted controversy when it first opened in Hong Kong last July, with the firm forced onto the defensive over its trademark busty girls in small orange shorts and tank tops.
At the time, Hooters Asia general manager Mike Warde dismissed accusations that breast size was a factor in the hiring process for waitresses, and said the bar was “family oriented” and “fun-loving”.
“We teach the girls to be a lot more respectful of themselves; have more confidence in themselves,” he said.
There are more than 430 Hooters restaurants in 28 countries, according to the Singapore Hooters website.