THE DARK SIDE OF HONG KONG NIGHT LIFE 1

By Sally Wolzinak

“If you don’t have girls sitting around waiting to be picked up or sell drugs on the premises, you just can’t make money opening a restaurant in Hong Kong these days.”

Someone who has seen the highs of the restaurant and club scene in Hong Kong where he was once a king of all he surveyed, and when Lan Kwai Fong, Wyndham Street, and Old Bailey Street were booming while gorgeous girls from Eastern Europe were being squired by rich Asian and Chinese playboys and served only the best champagne money could buy, was lamenting about the good old days. They’re gone forever and they aren’t coming back, my friend. Ever.

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He pointed out to the eerie lack of customers in what has become a dreary Wanchai, the closure in the past year of so many clubs and restaurants down Wyndham Street with Lan Kwai Fong having become something it never was- tacky with hookers, an infamous 7-11 said to be the meeting place for those underage looking to get drunk cheap, and dodgy looking restaurants and bars run by new arrivals from the sub-continent, where fights have become common place, Hong Kong nightlife is on its last legs. Those legs might have even given way. So much for that daft dream that refuses to die of Dumb And Dumber launching a dedicated LKF television channel. Please, bitches.

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Crippling rents and then those Occupy Everything protests started the Big Won Ton Crumble and it’s been downhill ever since with more and more restaurants, shops and bars opening up in Sheung Wan and Kennedy Town. But after some initial excitement about these being new “trendy areas” starting up, and despite paid-for glowing reviews on online sites, they’re not happening in the real world. People make any business and no one with any sense is going to go out to sit around some empty bar and look like a loser.

Even the once hugely popular meeting place that was the five-star Champagne Bar at the Grand Hyatt hotel is today like visiting Le Rue Morgue. It’s deader than dead with even Colombian hookers giving it and other hotel lounges that at one time attracted big spenders, the big kiss off. The big spenders are either gone or have been fleeced so much that these days they have their wallets under lock and key.

Sai Wan Ho aka Soho East is trying to be a less expensive alternative to Central with its strip of restaurants and bars and a promenade area overlooking Kowloon, but its future is hardly bright.

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Despite a large Korean and Japanese community in the area, and a reasonably large group of middle class residents, the pretty ordinary outlets are frequented by very price conscious locals who wouldn’t know a Pinot Noire from a pissoir and insist on rice with every dish. Walking around the area can result in severe depression.

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There’s nothing wrong with “going local”, but not “going local” with B and C Grade TVB actors and actresses sitting next to you with big noting local businessmen dropping names like bombs and screaming out that they’re bringing Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber to perform in Yuen Long. Huh? Their girls giggle and take selfies while giving the peace sign. This is Hello Kitty land.

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Is this what Hong Kong has become? A testament to mediocrity and pretences where nothing and nobody is what they seem? Let’s hope there’s more to Hong Kong than a throbbing night life. The city still has a pulse though SoHo is practically dead with many restaurants not even bothering to open for lunch or on Sundays. They’d rather save on the electricity. Perhaps they should just close these places down as working to just break even really makes no sense. “Breaking even” anywhere in the world means the same thing: “We’re broke and don’t know what the hell to do about it”.

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Added my friend, “There are of course some places that are doing well, but these are private clubs for a very exclusive and longtime clientele who can still afford to blow at least $50k only talking to Russian girls and paying for their martinis made out of coloured sugar water. Taking the girls out will cost an extra $10k with no guarantee of seeing a return on the investment. But they’re still willing to pay and hope their charm wins out.”

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Poor saps. Haven’t they checked out the Backpage advertisements on their iPhones though, again, very few are those whose photographs are one and the same whereas some of the costs are hilarious. But more on this business another day as it’s a fascinating scam and old business model wrapped up in the online world.

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Meanwhile, there’s a female reporter writing for one of the English newspapers who only adds to the gloom and doom by embracing every mediocre cause célèbre around.

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The first time she embraced the supposedly “under trodden” over being turfed out of their latest venue for music through their own ignorance of laws, one thought her heart was in the right place and put it down to naive thinking. But with that subject having hit a point of no return, off she went to show and write about other aspects of Hong Kong life where she came across as a wannabe Joan Of Arc.

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Darling, if Hong Kong is so darn hard to take, just leave to from whence you came. But this is a problem few wish to face: They enjoy being expats in Hong Kong and the doors this opens whereas there’s nothing for them “back home.” And so, being here, becomes a “brand building” exercise that could lead to a better lifestyle and gig.

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It’s like the washed up musicians who land up in Hong Kong, and so often drop names, create back stories about performing with this one and that one for the sole purpose of making Hong Kong their home, because they’ve run out of options.

Hong Kong being Hong Kong never question these new arrivals. Instead, we take them in and, especially as the restaurant business has proven, the art of bullshit and a white face can take the biggest conman very far. And if in the restaurant business, you’d know who would be heading the list though these days he’s detonated so many bridges that he’s run out of financial godmothers.

Hong Kong: With all its faults, it’s better than so many other places around the world. And if having grown up here, you still come to its defence when under siege. Maybe we don’t know where it’s heading, but where in the world is anyone truly happy with their lot in life? Canada doesn’t count. But while here, let’s just enjoy the ride and do our part to make a difference.