Shek O

Shek O BBQ rental stalls collect signatures to stay open after Hong Kong officials order closure

Customers and beachgoers voice support for long-serving vendors and sign petition asking government to reconsider, but no sign of softening

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 March, 2018, 10:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 March, 2018, 10:32am

One of four vendors accused of illegally occupying government land for decades to run a barbecue business at scenic Hong Kong beach Shek O launched a signature campaign on Saturday against a closure order.

Liu’s BBQ, which closed its doors on Thursday along with three other operators, decided to open over the weekend to complete its last bookings, including one placed about a month ago to celebrate Holi, a Hindu festival known as the Festival of Colours.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department ordered the four stalls to remove their property and vacate the area by Monday or face a fine of HK$500,000 (US$63,800) and six months in jail.

The operator of Liu’s BBQ said it would close after Sunday. It started collecting signatures from customers and beachgoers on Saturday for a petition asking officials to allow it to stay in business.

Sources said the four shops – each family-run and located on the east side of the beach – could trace their roots as far back as the 1920s.

Saurabh Srivastava, one of the Holi gathering organisers, supported the campaign.

“I think they can rent the place if the shops are occupying government land right now,” Srivastava, a Hong Kong Island resident and regular customer, said.

Another supporter, Kowloon resident Gahl Leddel, said his five-year-old daughter, Raya, would not stop crying until he took her to Shek O on Saturday morning.

“We drove all the way here from the Kowloon side,” said Leddel, a brand manager who has lived in Hong Kong for 16 years. “We love the place and the rental barbecue stalls here.”

While 39 free public barbecue pits are positioned on the beach’s west side, Leddel said the private stalls afforded customers extra services.

“We know there are free barbecue pits, but by renting the facilities here you don’t have to bring your own coal and you have trees,” Leddel said.

Another beachgoer, surnamed Tang, said that if the private stalls were shut down, “the public pits wouldn’t be enough for all the beachgoers”.

About two dozen public pits were occupied on Saturday afternoon.

These BBQ stalls are an asset to the community
Paul Zimmerman Southern district councillor

Lawyer Sean Donovan said he came to the beach nearly weekly with his daughter. He described the barbecue facilities as making the site more attractive.

Southern district councillor Paul Zimmerman said he wrote to the authorities seeking to find a solution for the vendors.

“These BBQ stalls are an asset to the community,” Zimmerman stated in an email seen by the Post.

He suggested the government adopt regulations such as short-term tenancies, claiming “these business operators responded to the market and turned it into a popular service”.

When asked if the stalls would be allowed to keep operating, an LCSD spokesman on Saturday reiterated that they involved unauthorised structures erected on government land.

It said it issued formal advisory letters to the operators on January 29, asking them to remove the illegal structures and cease unlawful occupation within the land before February 26.

The spokesman warned enforcement action would be taken if the operators failed to comply.