Hong Kong property

Exclusive Hong Kong Bankers Club in Central to make way for restaurant as landlord won’t renew lease

The Hong Kong Bankers Club on the 43rd and 44th floors of Gloucester Tower in Central has been a popular meeting place for bankers, lawyers and accountants since moving there in 1981

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 May, 2018, 7:02am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 May, 2018, 3:18pm

The Hong Kong Bankers Club is looking for a new home as the landlord Hongkong Land wants to lease its 7,000 square feet premises in Gloucester Tower to a restaurant operator in a bid to attract more traffic to its interconnected Landmark shopping centre, according to people familiar with the situation.

In a letter seen by the Post sent to a club member by Hongkong Land, the largest landlord in Central intends to “make alternative use” of the 7,000 square feet premises on the 43rd and 44th floors of the grade A office tower and that “the lease will not be extended when its expires on October 31, 2020”.

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A spokeswoman for Hongkong Land said the company does not comment on individual leases.

Founded by overseas bankers in 1977 as The Hong Kong Overseas Bankers Club, and renamed as The Hong Kong Bankers Club in 1996, the club has been a popular gathering venue for bankers, lawyers and accountants in Central since it moved there in 1981.

Former and current Hong Kong Monetary Authority chief executives Joseph Yam Chi-kwong and Norman Chan Tak-lam, former British governors and chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and other senior officials have attended events at the club.

It has more than 1,000 corporate members including all the biggest banks in Hong Kong.

A membership to the club is generally part of the compensation package for any overseas banker working in Hong Kong.

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“They want to turn it into a mid- to high-end food and beverage area with a nice sea view,” according to an industry expert. “Rents won’t be much higher if the premises is leased for F&B use. But a good brand F&B operator can help drive traffic to the shopping centre.”

But Thomas Lam, senior director and head of valuation and consultancy at Knight Frank, said it would be hard to boost traffic by just converting it from a clubhouse to a restaurant.

“It would need a whole set of facilities – restaurants, cinemas, retailers – to create a critical mass of arrivals,” Lam said.

The club currently pays less than HK$100 per sq feet or about HK$6 million a year as rent to Hongkong Land, according to a banker who is also a club member. Property agents, however, said that this is lower than current market value of between HK$120 and HK$140 per sq ft in Central.

The banker, who did not want to be named, said he believes Hongkong Land would like to see a nice deluxe restaurant like Sevva in the nearby Prince’s Building – also owned by the same developer.

“We are disappointed with Hongkong Land’s decision,” said the banker. “We would very much like to stay here as it is convenient to our members and their guests. We have over HK$100 million in reserves and we are willing to renovate the club with new concepts,” adding that the club would still like to negotiate with the landlord.

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In the meantime, Hong Kong Bankers Club has started scouting for a new location. “It is not easy but we will make sure the new venue is in Central as our study shows that we would lose many members if we were to move out of Central,” he said.

He also did not rule out the club buying its own property should it suit its needs. “As many of our members are top bankers, we would not have any difficulty in arranging financing, but it would be more difficult to find a suitable location.”