Business Plunges at LKF due to the 23 Coronavirus Cases Related and the Booze Ban

Hong Kong’s nightlife hub, Lan Kwai Fong, saw a plunge in business due to the coronavirus, yet it might get even worse. As at least 23 cases were traced to visits of the sector, the Chief Executive, Carrie Lam, proposed a booze ban in bars and restaurants to combat the disease on Monday.

Famous for its bars, restaurants and entertainment events, LKF used to be a classic representative of Hong Kong’s fruitful night culture and is portrayed in various famous films and novels.

However, it was notably quieter than usual at LKF last Friday night when 5 patients had confirmed previous visits to the sector. After the government announced the commencement of the second wave of coronavirus outbreak, many bars and eateries have been keeping out people who have a fever or symptoms of respiratory diseases.

Outdoor seats were half-empty at a bar in LKF at midnight on March 20, 2020. (Credit: Tim Pit)

Willie Deng, a 22-year-old party-goer, said she is more cautious to join her friends at LKF concerning the current situation. She used to go clubbing at least once a week, but she hasn’t been to the area for about a month now.

“It’s almost impossible to wear masks at LKF because you are there to drink and chat,” said Willie, “I don’t feel comfortable nowadays without a mask so I just chose to invite friends to my place instead.”

Zentral, a club located in California Tower, the same building where at least four patients had visited, conducted temperature testing for every customer by masked staff last Friday, March 20. Hand sanitizers were provided for the visitors  before entering the club.

Staff from Zentral conducting temperature tests for customers at the counter. (Credit: Tim Pit)

However, the club later announced a voluntary suspension of its business on this Monday, following Carrie Lam’s announcement of alcohol ban earlier that day.

At least 3 patients had been to the Pure Fitness sports center located at the California Tower where Zentral is. They were confirmed infected on the 18th and 19th of March and the Pure Group announced a suspension of its three gyms in Central for deep disinfection and hygiene control.

According to the Center for Health Protection in Hong Kong, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 tolled up 217 in the past week, which accounts for more than half of the total confirmed cases this year. 23 patients had been to LKF during the 14-day incubation period or even after symptoms appeared. The cluster of patients in LKF is also intertwined with the group of people who attended a wedding at Discovery Bay on March 14th, where 8 people were tested positive of coronavirus. 

Traces of infected cases of coronavirus to the LKF sector. Numbers refer to different individuals. (Image: Ada Jiang)

In light of the situation, Carrie Lam was determined to push through the temporary alcohol ban. Although the Chief Executive explained that the ban does not prevent the bars to offer other food except the alcohol, many bar owners believe it would be detrimental to their business. Industry representatives warned that the proposal could result in a wave of business closures and lay-offs, according to SCMP.

On LIHKG, Hong Kong’s biggest online forum, many people complained about the alcohol ban, some radicals even condemn the government of “betraying small tenants”.

“Why don’t the government just shut down the Customs earlier? The alcohol ban is harming the local tenants who did nothing wrong,” said a user on LIHKG. “If we risk getting infected when eating, can we shut down all the diners?”

“I don’t think the alcohol ban would be that effective because people can still buy alcohol from the booze shops or supermarket to gather at home.” said Willie, “But in a sense, the ban can prevent gathering and interaction with strangers at the bars.”

Business seems to be extra difficult for the tenants in LKF since last year. The business plunged since the major protest last Halloween and the number of tourists has decreased significantly. According to the quarterly report released by the Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department, the revenue of non-Chinese restaurants and bars, the two main sectors at LKF, fell by 15% in the last three months of last year from the same period in 2018.

(Source of feature image: Shutterstock)

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