A German philosopher once said: “In fashion, one day you’re in. The next, you’re out.” The insight of Heidi Klum on Project Runway doesn’t apply only to the fashion catwalk. It is a truism: nothing lasts forever, success is and always will be fleeting, celebrity chefs will come and go. The lucky ones manage to extend their fame for more than 15 minutes. Thus no restaurant is guaranteed to hold three Michelin stars forever, not even the revered L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges helmed by Paul Bocuse in Lyons, France, which held the honour, bestowed in in 1965, for 55 years. This January, two years after Bocuse died, the restaurant was stripped of one of its stars. In Hong Kong, like any city with gentrifying and decaying neighbourhoods, the dining scene is constantly changing. Nightlife in the 1980s gravitated to a newly reclaimed part of Wan Chai where the Viceroy (in the Sun Hung Kai Centre) and Club JJ’s (in the Grand Hyatt) reigned. After that, Lan Kwai Fong in Central became the place to be, as trendy people in their Versace shirts flooded into California, Indochine and Va Bene. Now the street is a sad shell of its former self. Even Chinese tourists don’t go there any more. Then, in the early 2000s, things moved up to SoHo, which became the most desired area for hip bars and restaurants. But, like Michael Jordan’s 1997 Chicago Bulls team, they too have had their last dance. History offers a silver lining as pandemic ruins our restaurants The upper part of Elgin Street is now lined with boarded-up shopfronts; many of the familiar restaurants, such as Olive, Soho Spice, Craftsteak and I Caramba! are gone. Lower Elgin Street and Peel Street, once the domain of fruit stalls and local shops, are now the lively ground for crowds. I bet the rent is cheaper there too. New dining scenes have emerged westward in Sheung Wan, on High Street, Sai Ying Pun, and in Kennedy Town. It’s easy to just say, well, times change. Every generation wants something novel to call their own. Too much success often has a way of ruining prosperity, given the greed of some property owners. More than a couple of restaurant operators have lamented to me how their landlords refused to discount even one penny during the coronavirus crisis. In more profitable times, they also don’t hesitate to double the lease price. Elgin Street has seen the most devastation, but other addresses nearby are struggling too. Look at the succession of closures on Staunton and Shelley Streets, next to the Mid-Levels escalator. Lotus is gone. Le Souk didn’t last. Not even Burger King could sustain business at this high-traffic intersection. Given the buildings here are often old, and have very confined lots with small seating capacity and even smaller bathroom facilities, profit margins can easily come under pressure. If I were a business-minded chef, I would be looking for nicer and larger digs elsewhere, too. Indeed, there are so many other appealing dining districts now. Various parts of Tsim Sha Tsui are seeing a revival from new developments. The south side of Hong Kong is suddenly accessible with the MTR extension. Tai Hang was trendy for about a month and a flood of restaurants opened and closed as landlords indulged in a typical feeding frenzy. That area has calmed down now and become a nice quiet place to eat again. Meanwhile Happy Valley, Wan Chai and the entire Western district have opened up for local dining. Even in Central, successes like Yardbird and Neighborhood show you can cultivate your own pocket of buzz in an unknown side street or lane. As for sad old SoHo, it’s become passé. That means sorry, but you’re out. Auf Wiedersehen!