Hong Kong’s Jumbo floating restaurant, a famous but aging tourist attraction that has featured in several Cantonese and Hollywood films, was towed out of town on Tuesday after the Covid pandemic finally sank the struggling business.
The floating giant, which at 76 meters (250ft) long could seat 2,300 diners, departed shortly before noon from the typhoon shelter in southern Hong Kong Island where it has sat for almost a half century.
Designed like a Chinese imperial palace and once considered a must-see landmark, the restaurant has drawn visitors from Queen Elizabeth II to Tom Cruise and has featured in several films, including Steven Soderbergh’s “Contagion,” about a deadly global pandemic.
The operators of the lavish restaurant cited the Covid-19 pandemic as the reason for closing its doors permanently in March 2020, after around a decade of financial difficulties.
Restaurant owner Melco International Development announced last month that before its license expires in June, Jumbo would leave Hong Kong and await a new operator at an undisclosed location.
Under overcast skies, a scattered group of spectators gathered on the Aberdeen seafront to watch him being driven away.
Mr Wong, a 60-year-old man, told AFP he had come specifically to see her off.
“The outside has been a symbol of Hong Kong for many years,” he said, adding that he had eaten there once 20 years ago.
“I believe he will come back and I can’t wait to be there,” he added wistfully.
Another viewer, who went by the name Ms. Chan, said she heard the news and came to take one last photo near the restaurant before she left.
“I think it’s such a shame to see him go,” she said.
“Jumbo has a long history and has attracted many locals and tourists… It’s a restaurant that’s known all over the world.”
– “Goodbye” –
Opened in 1976 by the late casino magnate Stanley Ho, the Jumbo Floating Restaurant epitomized the height of luxury, reportedly costing more than HK$30 million ($3.8 million) to build.
It featured a “dragon throne” in the style of the Ming dynasty as well as an opulent wall painting.
One of those watching as the restaurant left on Tuesday fondly remembered the throne, a 24-year-old man surnamed Leung who said he always begged his mother to let him sit on it when they visited for sundowns. sum.
“There are quite a few childhood memories for me,” he said. “I feel a bit sad. (Coming here) to see him is like saying goodbye.”
The Port of Aberdeen was traditionally a hotspot for seafood restaurants – and fierce competition for customers only cooled when Jumbo operators acquired its biggest competitor, Tai Pak Floating Restaurant, in the 1980s.
The restaurant has been kept afloat by Hong Kong’s booming tourist industry, but its popularity had faded in recent years even before the coronavirus hit.
Restaurant owner Melco said last month that the business had been unprofitable since 2013 and cumulative losses had topped HK$100 million ($12.7 million).
It still cost millions in maintenance fees each year and a dozen companies and organizations had declined invitations to take it up at no cost, Melco added.
In her 2020 policy speech, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced plans to move the restaurant to local Ocean Park theme park for revitalization, but the plan fell through after the park said it would not could not find a suitable operator.
The fate of the ailing restaurant was sealed just days before Lam left office.
A sign of its dilapidation, on June 1, Jumbo’s kitchen boat went into the water after a suspected breach in the hull, tilting at nearly 90 degrees.
The derelict kitchen boat will be abandoned, according to local media.