Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Another Victim of Rent Hikes

Hong Kong -- a beacon of opportunity for success or not?
High rents have claimed another victim in Causeway Bay.

Cheung Kee Grocery Store on 5 Canal Road East will be closing its doors after over 40 years. It sells preserved vegetables, eggs, rice, beans and soy sauce.

The owner who bought the store premises for HK$350,000 in 1975, raked in an almost 400-percent profit when the property was sold for HK$138 million in March last year.

Now the new owner needs a tenant who can pay the HK$150,000 monthly rent.

Cheung Kee Grocery's demise follows that of Lei Yuen Congee Noodles on 539 Lockhart Road, behind the Sogo department store.

The eatery had to close after more than four decades in business because the rent jumped to HK$600,000 a month. How many bowls of noodles and congee can you sell the pay the rent?

Last week my cousin's wife told me she was so sad to see it close -- it was where her parents went on dates before they got married, then took her there as a child, and then a few years ago she took her husband there too.

"All the decor in there is so old," she said with sadness. "Even the cash register is one of those push button ones -- it was there since day one even though it had rust on it."

The closure of so many old school restaurants and shops has shocked Hong Kong people, and made them nostalgic for their childhoods, for losing a piece of their local culture, but at the same time they are resigned to the reality of rising property prices.

It also reveals how complex things have become in the city, how it is practically impossible for a young budding entrepreneur to just have a good idea or the dedication to work hard.

Now the only successful entrepreneurs are the ones who used to be high-powered bankers with lots of capital or those with mummy and daddy bankrolling their ventures.

People used to believe they too could be the next Li Ka-shing, rising from nothing to become a tycoon worth $30 billion.

But nowadays it's practically impossible.

While we have mainlanders to thank for jacking up property prices, we can also blame the Hong Kong government for not fostering small businesses and local industries.

It's an ongoing refrain, but it seems no one is looking out for us little guys -- the ones who actually keep the city ticking.

We love Hong Kong, for all the opportunities and the interesting things we see... but why do others with money and power have to trample all over our dreams?

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