Live entertainment venue and restaurant Grappa’s Cellar is set to close in late July after the landlord Hongkong Land refused to renew the lease.

“It is not a rent or money issue. Hongkong Land have decided they want something different,” a staff member told HKFP on Tuesday. “We have been told they want to put a food court there instead,” they added, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Photo: Grappa’s Cellar.

They added that there were no plans to reopen elsewhere: “We’ve been lucky to have a space that is very well-suited to live entertainment in a unique way in Hong Kong. It’s just not possible to find a similar space and recreate the same experience elsewhere.”

The venue, located at Jardine House in Central, hosted an array of international talent, including gigs by José González, Imogen Heap, OK Go, British Sea Power and comedians such as Doug Stanhope, Phil Jupitus, Tom Green and The Pub Landlord.

An original Grappa’s venue opened in 1990 in Pacific Place, Admiralty. The Grappa’s Cellar site opened in Central on June 28, 1999.

Hongkong Land refused to comment when contacted by HKFP.

‘Save the Cellar’

Karen Tong, who has been running free community swing dance events at Grappa’s Cellar since 2006, told HKFP that she has launched an independent campaign to save the venue: “[W]e are coordinating efforts as we speak to gather enough public support in a Save the Cellar campaign to persuade Hong Kong Land to renew its lease with Grappa’s.”

The closure of the bar and restaurant, which dubbed itself “the home of live entertainment in Hong Kong,” will be a particular blow to the live jazz scene in Hong Kong, according to Tong.

“Stray Katz Big Band played 15 years at Grappa’s, the Victoria Jazz Band’s current residency also spans at least that time and the Island Express Jazz Orchestra plays there monthly as well, along with countless other acts over the years,” she said.

Tong launched a petition on Tuesday urging Hongkong Land to reverse its decision. It read: “We urge Hongkong Land to consider the cultural significance of the Cellar, and make good their own sustainability pledge to Arts and Culture, which states on their website: ‘Hongkong Land proudly hosts and sponsors a series of cultural events and art exhibitions, with the objective of developing an appreciation for arts and culture and enhancing the communities around our buildings…’”

The petition asked the firm to renew the lease, allow the venue to maintain its menu and concept and consider the cultural importance of Grappa’s Cellar in future lease renewals.

The news comes days after underground bar Sense 99 agreed to leave its home in Central following a rent hike.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.