THE Wan Chai of Suzie Wong has gone upmarket and is challenging trendy Lan Kwai Fong for the title of Hong Kong's top entertainment district, according to local businessmen. As the girlie bars of sleazy Wan Chai are pushed aside by trendy Western-style pubs and discos, the Wan Chai Association - a body of more than 60 food and beverage outlets - has launched a campaign to create a rejuvenated nightlife precinct, tentatively labelled Wan Chai Fong. Plans for the area, as it moves to shake off its reputation as a downmarket vice centre, include limited pedestrianisation of streets, renovation of building facades, replacement of pavements with contemporary tile designs, the cleaning up and paving of alleyways, introduction of new rubbish containers and disposal systems, and eradication of rats, which are prolific in the area. Association chief executive officer Mark Thompson said the area was a favoured location for Western-style bars and restaurants with two - Delaney's Irish pub at One Capital Place on the corner of Jaffe and Luard roads, and Rick's Cafe in Jaffe Road - officially opening last Friday. Another Western-style bar, Carnegies on nearby Lockhart Road, opened several weeks ago, while both the Yacht and Golf Club and Rugby Union bars will open soon. Brett's Australian Seafood Restaurant will also relocate to new premises. Mad Dogs, which operates two bars in Lan Kwai Fong and Tsim Sha Tsui, is also understood to be searching for a site for a new bar in Wan Chai to join the throng. The stylish new bars are attracting big crowds and putting pressure on more established venues to change their presentation. The Big Apple, on Luard Road - understood to have the highest cash turnover of any bar in Hong Kong - has been extensively renovated while Joe Banana's, opposite the Big Apple and the territory's most profitable bar, has given its staff a new, smarter look. ''There is a great deal of interest in establishing new bars and restaurants in Wan Chai, and properties are being marked as centres for this sort of business,'' Mr Thompson said. ''We expect developers to start easing out some of their tenants who are traders or retailers as they start to realise the value of ground floor space. ''Wan Chai has a daytime population of 500,000 and every day there is more office space and more workers in the area. There are great opportunities just serving that market,'' Mr Thompson said. ''Previously, there was a trend for people to have lunch here but go elsewhere after work. That has changed, the tide is turning.'' He said Wan Chai's vice reputation was no longer deserved but believed the rich history of the area was a major drawing card. ''There are still girlie bars but not half as many as there used to be,'' Mr Thompson said. ''And there's not so much prostitution any more. It all seems to have moved out to Mongkok and Tsim Sha Tsui. ''As far as triads are concerned, I've never had any contact with them and I don't know of any of our members who have,'' he added. ''I really think the red light side of Wan Chai is quite quaint these days. ''That is one of the attractions of Wan Chai. It's much more of a down to earth area than Lan Kwai Fong, more charismatic.'' Mr Thompson expected his organisation to confirm the precinct would be called Wan Chai Fong within the next few weeks but said Wan Sai Fong was also under consideration. Fong means a type of paved alleyway and sai means west. Lan Kwai Fong Association chairman Richard Feldman said he was unconcerned Wan Chai's renaissance could wrest some of the market share business away from his members but said the fashionable nightlife precinct was also undergoing renovations. ''We've already had the entire area re-cobblestoned and three buildings have been re-faced,'' he said. ''This year 18 trees will be planted in Lan Kwai Fong and we're arranging for some beautiful old-fashioned street lamps from England to be installed. ''What happens in Wan Chai won't affect this, it won't affect Lan Kwai Fong. ''What makes Lan Kwai Fong special is that it is just one city block, a gweilo ghetto and they won't have that,'' Mr Feldman said. ''To call that area Wan Chai Fong would be the biggest mistake. It reeks of being the underdog. Why not do something original?''