Via Howard Winn Reports

First Dan Ryan was eased out of Pacific Place. Now it appears the Italian restaurant Grappa’s is under threat of having to close when its contract expires later this year.

Negotiations are still underway between the owners, El Grande Concepts, and Swire Properties. But there is speculation that at least some in Swire Properties management want Grappa’s out.

Grappa’s has had this location since 1990 and still remains extremely popular.  Lamenting the closure of Dan Ryan’s and of Xen some years ago, Mike Rowse in the South China Morning Post observed, “Damn it, they are part of our cultural heritage. Scrapping them is not modernisation or progress, it is social vandalism.

Pacific Place. Photo: Wikicommons.

“At the end of the day, their passing will be a monument to the power of our property tycoons to ignore public opinion and taste, and simply go their own way, as if we didn’t have enough reminders already.”

Much the same can be said about Grappa’s, which has become something of an institution. Like Dan Ryan’s it has high sales per square foot and pays an eye-watering high rent.

The reasoning behind easing out Dan Ryan’s and possibly Grappa’s is that retail sales are slipping at Pacific Place, as they are generally in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, the Swire management is apparently envious of the buzz surrounding IFC mall in Central.

Alvin Kong was appointed director of the company’s retail portfolio in September 2014 and is responsible for the leasing and management of Swire’s retail portfolio in Asia. He apparently believes that Pacific Place needs ‘freshening up.’

Pacific Place. Photo: Stand News.

So Dan Ryan’s will be replaced by a Japanese Italian fusion restaurant run by Chef Bombana’s Otto e Mezzo group. Now whether Italian-Japanese fusion is going to be a success in Hong Kong remains a moot point. Some restaurants that have tried it aren’t doing so well.

Another innovation at Swire Pacific has been TWG TEA. Despite being ‘new’ and ‘fresh’ it does a fraction of the business done by Dan Ryan’s and Grappa’s.

The same can be said for the pop-up champagne and caviar place on the third floor of the mall which has a two-month deal. There has been some speculation that this might be the sort of thing Swire has in mind for the Grappa’s location.

It remains to be seen whether this ‘fresh look’ for the mall attracts the increase in shoppers that Swire is seeking, or whether those dismayed by the closure of these restaurants go elsewhere.

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Howard Winn

Howard Winn has been a journalist for more than 25 years working mostly in Asia. He was until recently Lai See columnist for the South China Morning Post, a column that focused on the lighter side of business and more. He was previously Deputy Editor and Business Editor of the Hong Kong Standard. His work has been published in the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Wall Street Journal, and the International Herald Tribune. His latest work can be found at HowardWinnReports.com