Have you ever been a victim of landlord bully? Perhaps one day as you come close to the end of your tenancy, you are informed that your rent is up 50%, perhaps even doubled or tripled? No matter if you are a tenant of a tiny studio flat or a long term tenant of a major shopping center, your fake seems to be the same. You become a victim of Landlord Bully.
Two recent news in HK caught my attention. Let’s start with the good news first.
The Story of Brother Ming
Brother Ming ( as he is affectionately known in the HK local community) is a good Samaritan who runs Pei Ho restaurant in Sham Shui Po. He is well known to provide free meals to the needy and elderly of Sham Shui Po; one of the areas with one of the highest concentration of the underprivileged population in HK. You can find a story about him in this link here. http://jmsc.hku.hk/dispatches/2015/12/31/restaurant-good-samaritan-to-expand-his-charitable-cafes-in-hong-kong/
However, good old Brother Ming no matter how many lunch boxes he donates to the needy of Sham Shui Po, is not immune to Landlord Bully. Last month, his landlord has asked for a 25% increase in rent, despite the weakening property market. This news is not only devastating to Brother Ming who thinks he may have to close down but would be even more devastating for the community as such socially responsible small businesses are hard to find in Hong Kong. To cut a long story short, another landlord in the neighborhood ( just across the road from his existing shop) has offered to rent his bigger shop at lower rent in support of Brother Ming so that cheap meals for the community and free meals for the needy can continue. Thank you for philanthropic work of Brother Ming and the kindness of the new Landlord who shows that there are still some caring landlords in Hong Kong. Thank you both for showing a light in this concrete jungle where sometimes only darkness and greed seem to prevail.
Now the not so happy story, which I am praying for a Happy Ending.
The story of Grappas
JR, as he is affectionately known, came to this concrete city more than 40 years to help Bank of America set up its Asia operations; is the founder of El Grande group, that runs the Grappas restaurants. If I am not wrong, Grappas in Pacific Place is the first Grappas and was created as a response to the lack of high quality and affordable western cuisine in Hong Kong. Back in 1990, Swire has welcomed Grappas with open arms and this popular Italian restaurant has become a staple fare for many of us. With Grappas’ success , the El Grande group managed to open a few more restaurants in Hong Kong reflecting the Hong Kong dream of entrepreneurship.
However this lovely success story is also not immune to Landlord Bully. A couple of years ago, Domani, a popular fine dining restaurant also run by the El Grande situated in Pacific Place had to close as Swire would not renew its lease so it could take the space to open its own restaurant, The Continental. This month , the target is Grappas. Despite it being one of the most successful F&B outlets in Pacific Place, Swire has not been receptive to renewing its long term partner whom they welcomed some 20 years ago. Loyalty to your landlord does not pay off . Whether you are chain of restaurants or a small cha charn teng owner, you are just as vulnerable to be a victim of landlord bully.
Fortunately many are fighting for Grappas to stay ; with a Hong Kong solicitor launching a campaign to save Grappa’s from Pacific Place closure. See link for more details http://www.sinsin.hk/show.asp?id=83
I hope I would see a happy ending to the Story of Grappas . Perhaps we will find a “little bit of heart” in Swire like the kindness that we could all see in Sham Shui Po with Brother Ming and his new landlord.