Hong Kong’s iconic Jumbo Floating Restaurant has officially bid farewell to the city after plans to revitalise it fell through. Residents gathered to watch the 46-year-old landmark being towed out of the Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter on a cloudy Tuesday morning.
The Southern District tourist attraction was surrounded by Marine Department vessels and guard boats, while some workers waited on the deck for the floating former eatery to be dragged away. Jumbo Kingdom, the restaurant’s parent company, announced that it had failed to secure a new operator for Jumbo Floating Restaurant. The company had suffered accumulated deficits of more than HK$100 million since 2013.
At around noon, the almost 4,200-square-metre restaurant opened by late casino tycoon Stanley Ho in 1976 began to be slowly pulled away by towboats.
According to local media, Jumbo Kingdom said that the fleet found a new parking spot and had plans to undergo maintenance in Southeast Asia. But the company did not disclose further details.
A number of residents stood at the pier to photograph the outgoing fleet, while some rode on sampans and small speedboats to catch a final glimpse of the departing Aberdeen Harbour icon.
A sampan operator told HKFP on Tuesday that around 20 vessels had been rented a day before by people who wanted to see the restaurant for the last time. The sampan operator recalled dining at Jumbo a few times, saying he thought their dim sum was “quite delicious.” But after the restaurant stopped serving dumplings and other bite-sized snacks, few patrons would visit the floating eatery, he said.
Asked if he was worried that Jumbo’s departure would affect his business, he said that business had been been poor regardless: “We haven’t had business for a long time, no [business] for the whole year.”
The restaurant ceased operations in March 2020 when Hong Kong was grappling with its first wave of Covid-19 infections. In the 2020 policy address, Chief Executive Carrie Lam pledged to revitalise the Jumbo Floating Restaurant after its owner agreed to donate it to Ocean Park. It was part of her plan to “invigorate” the Island South district, which she said had “great potential.”
But the theme park told Jumbo Kingdom in late 2021 that it could not find a suitable third party to take over operations. The restaurant’s parent company announced that the fleet would be moved out of Hong Kong after its operating license expired this month.
Two days following the announcement, the kitchen barge of the floating restaurant sunk.
Jumbo Kingdom told HKFP on Tuesday that the company had communicated with the Marine Department and marine police about the flotilla’s exit route. The company said they would not disclose where Jumbo was headed, in order to avoid disturbance at the new parking site.
When asked if the restaurant would return to Hong Kong, the firm said they had to check the condition of the fleet before deciding on the next steps: “A unique icon for local residents and tourists alike, Jumbo Floating Restaurant has stood proud in [the] Southern District of Hong Kong Island for the past 46 years,” they said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Throughout this journey, it has been a great honour for us to share beautiful collective memories with local and foreign visitors,” the company added.
Some lawmakers called on the government to come up with a revitalisation plan to preserve the landmark, saying it represented “a collective memory for Hongkongers.”
But Lam said last month that the government did not intend to inject public funds into the reinvigoration project, adding the government could not “force it” if Ocean Park and the restaurant owner could not come up with a suitable conservation measure.
Additional reporting: Lea Mok
Help safeguard press freedom & keep HKFP free for all readers by supporting our team
Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit.