Famed HK floating restaurant towed away

End of an era: An aerial photo showing the Jumbo Floating Restaurant being towed out of Aberdeen Harbour. — AFP

Hong Kong: The Jumbo Floating Restaurant, a famed but ageing tourist attraction that featured in multiple Cantonese and Hollywood films, was towed out of the city after years of revitalisation efforts went nowhere.

The buoyant behemoth, which at 76m long could house 2,300 diners, set out shortly before noon yesterday from the southern Hong Kong Island typhoon shelter where it had sat for nearly half a century.

Designed like a Chinese imperial palace and once considered a must-see landmark, the restaurant drew visitors from Queen Elizabeth II to Tom Cruise and featured in several films, including Contagion, about a deadly global pandemic.

The lavish restaurant’s operators cited the Covid-19 pandemic as the reason for finally closing its doors in March 2020, after around a decade of financial woes.

Restaurant owner Melco International Development had announced last month that ahead of its licence expiration in June, Jumbo would leave Hong Kong and await a new operator at an undisclosed location.

Under overcast skies, a scattered group of onlookers gathered on the Aberdeen waterfront to see it be dragged away.

Watching the restaurant’s ponderous progress across the shelter waters was Wong, a 60-year-old man who said he had come specially to see its departure.

“The exterior was for many years a symbol of Hong Kong,” he said, adding that he had eaten there once 20 years ago.

“I believe it will come back and I look forward to it.”

Opened in 1976 by the late casino tycoon Stanley Ho, the Jumbo Floating Restaurant embodied the height of luxury, reportedly costing over HK$30mil (RM16.8mil) to build.

The restaurant was kept afloat by Hong Kong’s booming tourism industry but its popularity had dimmed in recent years even before the coronavirus hit.

In her 2020 policy address, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam announced plans to turn the restaurant over to local theme park Ocean Park for revitalisation, but the project fell through after the park said it could not find a suitable operator. — AFP

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