THE DARK SIDE OF HONG KONG NIGHT LIFE 1

Marouche, the popular Lebanese restaurant in Cochrane Street, and one of the first tenants in this area where its operated for fifteen years and attracted a very diverse clientele, has closed its doors for good, another victim of a huge rental increase that its owners simply could not afford to pay.

Can Do spirit 1b

What fate awaits its neighbours only time will tell, but the odds are that this street will soon change forever. The only good news to this is that all those Nigerian drug pushers doing business at the top of the street will have to scatter.

HAPPY HONG KONG AND ITS COCAINE BIZ 1

In very basic terms, Marouche was forced out of business, and one cannot help but think, where all this is going to stop, and how long the government will allow this game of The Big Squeeze to go on.

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It’s patently obvious that Hong Kong’s food and beverage business is in turmoil. Some might put on a brave front, but the maths don’t lie, and breaking even is hardly a winning business model. Unless one of the big restaurant groups with huge capital or attracting invisible investors from Mainland China, and, more and more, from Eastern Europe, who are happy to back some losing horses while their money goes through various washing machines, it’s almost impossible for the small, lone wolf entrepreneur to go it alone. And here lies a “branding” problem for Hong Kong, and its often parroted Can Do spirit. Can Do is these days, No Can Do because of the various road blocks it faces.

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This has always been a city that embraced entrepreneurial thinking- or creative thinking- and which brought newness to Hong Kong- and diversity. This entrepreneurial thinking is what gave Hong Kong- past tense- Lan Kwai Fong, former discotheques like Disco Disco, Canton and Manhattan, dragon-i that continues to march to the beat of its own EDM drum, and a handful of other smaller mom and pop restaurants and bars.

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Of course, there are those who will say that only the strong survive, and restaurants like Marouche, and others forced out of business, have to do with naive management and those who could not read the tea leaves.

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They will point out that there are still many who came to Hong Kong with nothing, and which they have parlayed into million dollar businesses. We salute these success stories and the people behind them. Long may they continue. But these success stories began decades ago, and have survived through business smarts and brave hearts coming into play during Hong Kong’s shakier moments. For others,, influential family ties and old Hong Kong money have helped and protected the generations coming through the ranks. Not everyone, however, has been born with a silver spoon in their mouth or shoved up some other orifice.

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When looking at the constantly changing landscape surreptitiously exchanging hands in Wanchai, Soho, Lan Kwai Fong, Knutsford Terrace in Kowloon, and the current herd mentality of the young and the reckless to blindly follow others who moved, or started new restaurants in Sheung Wan or Kennedy Road that had everything to do with timing, what is happening is open territorial warfare, where nothing is what it seems, and with no one knowing who are really pulling the strings and being the puppet masters.

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Everyone who has some passing interest in this industry thinks they know what’s going on. Fact is, those who talk the most, know the least. If those in the F&B industry who incessantly natter and pontificate about knowing who’s zooming who and “where the bodies are buried”, they would have seen the bogey man coming long ago, and would not now be sitting in limbo and caught between a rock and a hard place.

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As for the newbies who have rushed in where angels fear to tread, they are looking into the barrel of a gun with no long-term potential.

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Again, there’s a need for divine government intervention to create a more level playing field. But then again, perhaps the present government that many are helplessly hoping will come to their rescue, have their own puppet masters pulling their strings to bother trying to save others? Perhaps they are way too busy looking after Number One to bother about something as insignificant as some restaurants and bars and nightlife?

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Okay, restaurants etc are fading away overnight. Where have even all the foodie bloggers, so prevalent a year ago, gone? They’re gone because they are irrelevant. What will join this disappearing act tomorrow, and how is the Hong Kong brand looking to those from the outside looking in?

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We’re willing to bet that the picture isn’t exactly rosy, and that neighbouring cities and countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, Bangkok, Jakarta, even Sri Lanka with all its historical problems, and especially Singapore, once Hong Kong’s ugly stepsister, will bend over backwards and do somersaults across the floor to take in all those giving Hong Kong the flick.

Can Do spirit 12b