Lan Kwai Fong's popularity dropped significantly before I left Hong Kong in 2001, mostly due to the proliferation of restaurants that flourished along the Mid-Levels escalator. Part of it was because they were new and interesting places, and the other was the cheaper prices.
But that doesn't mean LKF's rents have fallen. Instead landlords are demanding more and more from the spaces they rent out, leaving restaurateurs with thinner profit margins.
This probably explains why there are a number of 7-Elevens that have opened up in the area, three along the Mid-Levels escalator and one at the bottom of LKF.
However, restaurateurs are miffed that yet another of these convenience stores is opening up -- right in LKF, next to Al's Diner and across from Stormie's.
While the spokeswoman from Stormie's was trying to be diplomatic, she pointed out that lots of young people go to 7-Eleven to buy cheap booze and drink it on the street as an inexpensive way to soak up the party atmosphere in LKF.
And so when the newest 7-Eleven opens up in LKF, it will probably be a very popular spot among young people wanting to have a good time on the cheap. While most people who go to the area will be hitting the bars and restaurants there, 7-Eleven is offering an alternative -- without needing a liquor license.
Bars and restaurants have to jump through a number of hoops in order to get this license and so those establishments in LKF feel it's unfair that 7-Eleven can not only sell alcohol cheaply, but also up until a few days ago, staff even opened the bottles for customers too.
And in an interesting marketing ploy, the company has set up a Facebook page, called "Club 7-Eleven" to promote buying alcohol in LKF as a night out.
Nevertheless, as a result of a change in company policy, all 7-Eleven stores are still selling alcohol, but now staff are not allowed to open the bottle for customers. Instead they will hand them a bottle opener to avoid the liquor license problem.
While it is not illegal for shops to sell alcohol to people under the age of 18, the 7-Eleven Group claims it will not sell booze to those under 18.
A police spokesman confirmed that as long as those under 18 did not consume alcohol inside the convenience store, it was not illegal for shops like 7-Eleven to sell alcohol to them.
The space where the 7-Eleven will be is boarded up and being renovated... just in time for the summer party season. We'll have to see what happens. Will there be more drunken brawls started by teens who can't hold their alcohol?
But the other bigger question is, now that a chain store has entered the former warehouse district that was hip for its one-off bars and restaurants, will there be other brands like Starbucks invading the area too?