Pandemic victim, Hong Kong floating restaurant towed away

HONG KONG (AP) – A landmark floating restaurant that fed Cantonese food and seafood to Queen Elizabeth II, Tom Cruise and millions of other guests was towed from Hong Kong harbor on Tuesday after it was closed due to the pandemic.

Jumbo Floating Restaurant’s parent company was unable to find a new owner and had no money to keep it after months of COVID-19 restrictions.

The huge floating restaurant, designed like a Chinese imperial palace on Aberdeen harbour, was known for its Cantonese cuisine and seafood dishes. It has hosted more than 30 million guests since its inception in 1976.

But due to the pandemic, Jumbo Floating Restaurant was forced to close in 2020 and all staff were fired. Parent company Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises said it had become a financial burden on shareholders as millions of Hong Kong dollars were spent each year on inspecting and maintaining the floating restaurant, even though the restaurant was not in operation.

“We do not foresee (Jumbo Floating Restaurant) being able to resume business in the near future,” the company said. It said potential deals to keep the restaurant open were thwarted by high operating costs.

Tugs towed the restaurant away on Tuesday, but it was not clear where it will dock next. The company planned to move it to a cheaper location where maintenance can still be performed.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam had previously rejected suggestions to save the restaurant, despite calls from lawmakers to preserve the iconic monument.

Lam said last month the government had no plans to invest taxpayers’ money in the restaurant, as the government was “not good” at running such buildings, despite calls from lawmakers to keep the restaurant.

Some Hong Kong residents remembered Jumbo Kingdom’s heyday and expressed disappointment at seeing the restaurant. It was famous for its lavish banquet meals, including roast suckling pig, lobster and double-boiled bird’s nest, a Chinese delicacy.

Wong Chi-wah, a boat operator in the Port of Aberdeen, said that in the heyday of the Jumbo Kingdom in the 1990s, swarms of Japanese tourists would frequent the restaurants.

“The streets were packed with parked vehicles as visitors arrived in large groups,” he said.

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

“If the restaurant leaves today, there is definitely a sense of loss, not just for people living in this area, but for all of Hong Kong,” Sin said.

“Over the past decades I have been to many places in the world to take pictures, but where else in the world are there such floating restaurants? I don’t think there are any left.”

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