By Katie Tam and Zen Soo | Associated press
HONG KONG — An iconic floating restaurant that fed Cantonese cuisine and seafood to Queen Elizabeth II, Tom Cruise and millions of other diners was towed from Hong Kong’s port on Tuesday after being closed by the pandemic .
Jumbo Floating Restaurant’s parent company couldn’t find a new owner and lacked the funds to maintain it after months of COVID-19 restrictions.
The huge floating restaurant designed like a Chinese imperial palace on Aberdeen Harbor was known for its Cantonese cuisine and seafood dishes. It has received more than 30 million visitors since its inception in 1976.
But Jumbo Floating Restaurant was forced to close in 2020 due to the pandemic, and all staff were laid off. Parent company Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises said it had become a financial burden on shareholders as millions of Hong Kong dollars were spent each year on inspection and maintenance of the floating restaurant, even though the restaurant was not not in activity.
“We do not anticipate that (Jumbo Floating Restaurant) will be able to resume operations in the immediate future,” the company said. He said potential deals to keep the restaurant open have been thwarted by high operating costs.
Tugboats towed the restaurant on Tuesday, but it was unclear where it would dock next. The company planned to move it to a lower cost site where maintenance could still be performed.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam previously rejected suggestions to bail out the restaurant, despite calls from lawmakers to preserve the iconic landmark.
Lam said last month that the government had no plans to invest taxpayers’ money in the restaurant because the government was “not good” at running such premises, despite calls from lawmakers to preserve Restaurant.
Some Hong Kong residents recalled the heyday of Jumbo Kingdom and expressed disappointment that the restaurant was gone. It was famous for its sumptuous banquet meals, with dishes such as roast suckling pig, lobster and twice boiled bird’s nest, a Chinese delicacy.
Wong Chi-wah, a boat operator in Aberdeen Harbour, said that during the heyday of the Jumbo Floating Restaurant in the 1990s, flocks of Japanese tourists visited the restaurants.
“The streets were full of parked vehicles as visitors arrived in large groups,” he said.
Encore Sin, 71, said Hong Kong was losing something unique.
“If the restaurant leaves today, there is definitely a sense of loss, not only for people who live in this area but for all of Hong Kong,” Sin said.
“Over the past decades, I have been to many places in the world to take photos, but where else in the world are there such floating restaurants? I don’t think there are any left.”