A victim of epidemic, Hong Kong’s floating restaurant was removed

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HONG KONG — A historic floating restaurant that serves Cantonese cuisine and seafood to Queen Elizabeth II, Tom Cruise and millions of other diners was brought out of Hong Kong harbor on Tuesday after it was closed due to the pandemic.

The Jumbo Floating Restaurant’s parent company was unable to find a new owner and lacked the financial resources to sustain it after months of COVID-19 restrictions.

The huge floating restaurant in Aberdeen Harbour, designed like a Chinese imperial palace, was known for its Cantonese cuisine and seafood dishes. Since its inception in 1976, it has welcomed over 30 million guests.

But the floating jumbo restaurant had to close in 2020 due to the pandemic and laid off all employees. Parent company Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises said it has become a financial drain on shareholders as millions of Hong Kong dollars are spent each year inspecting and maintaining the floating restaurant, even though the restaurant has not been operational.

“We do not believe that (Jumbo Floating Restaurant) will be able to resume operations in the near future,” the company said. It said high operating costs had thwarted potential deals to keep the restaurant open.

Traffickers demolished the restaurant on Tuesday, but it was unclear where it would be next. The company plans to move it to a low-cost location where maintenance can still be done.

Hong Kong Chairwoman Carrie Lam has previously dismissed proposals to save restaurants, despite lawmakers calling for the landmark to be preserved.

Lam said last month that the government has no plans to invest taxpayers’ money in restaurants because the government is not “good” at running such complexes, despite lawmakers calling for restaurants to be protected.

Recalling the heyday of the Jumbo Kingdom, some Hong Kong residents have expressed disappointment at visiting the restaurant. It was famous for its sumptuous banquet food, dishes such as roast suckling pig, lobster and double-boiled bird’s nest, a Chinese delicacy.

Wong Chi-wah, a boat operator at Aberdeen Harbour, said that in the glory days of the jumbo empire in the 1990s, hordes of Japanese tourists flocked to the restaurant.

“The streets were full of parked vehicles as visitors came in large groups,” he said.

Encore Sin, 71, said Hong Kong was missing something unique.

“If the restaurant fails today, there’s certainly a sense of loss, not just for the people of the area, but for Hong Kong as a whole,” Sin said.

“I’ve been to many places around the world to take photos over the past few decades, but where else in the world are there floating restaurants like this? I don’t think there are any left.”

A victim of the pandemic, Hong Kong’s floating restaurant has been gutted, first appeared in The Associated Press.

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