Hong Kong’s iconic Jumbo Floating Restaurant sailed away on Tuesday as residents showed up to bid it farewell, after talks failed to save the struggling 46-year-old tourist attraction.
At noon, tugboats started to move Jumbo away to moor overseas.
Brunswick group, a public relations firm, confirmed that the restaurant had left Hong Kong but said the new location could not be revealed. “It has been a great honour for us to share beautiful, collective memories with local and foreign visitors. We sincerely thank you for all your love and care,” the firm’s statement read.
Workers boarded it at around 8am for some preparation work. The restaurant’s welcome sign was moved to the nearby Tai Pak floating restaurant an hour later. The latter was connected to Jumbo and has been closed since early 2020, the same time Jumbo stopped operating. These two locations were together known as Jumbo Kingdom.
Some residents came to bid farewell to Jumbo early in the morning. One of them was a retired 76-year-old man, who only gave his surname as Lai. “I really can’t bear to let it go. I think it is a great loss to Hong Kong,” said Lai, who has lived in Southern district since the 1980s.
He recalled there were a lot of tourists coming to visit the floating restaurant before the pandemic.
“Sometimes I would also go to the restaurant. It is a symbol of Hong Kong,” he said.
“I once saw Stanley Ho going to the restaurant. That was probably 10 years ago, we residents watched him getting on the ferry at the back of the pier,” Lai said. The restaurant was opened by Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun in 1976.
A 70-year-old retired housewife, who has lived in Aberdeen her whole life, said she never thought this would happen. “I went to the restaurant a few times. The food was very expensive but the taste was just normal,” the woman surnamed Yuen said.
Workers are seen on board Jumbo Floating Restaurant. Photo: Dickson Lee
Even so, she said the restaurant was “worth keeping”.
“It is a landmark that appears in every travel guidebook about Hong Kong. It boosted the city tourism a lot,” she said. Celebrities including Britain’s Queen Elizabeth and film stars such as Tom Cruise and Chow Yun-fat also visited the restaurant during its heyday.
The restaurant also featured in local and overseas films such as James Bond’s The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), Jackie Chan’s The Protector (1985), Stephen Chow Sing-chi’s The God of Cookery (1996), Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion (2011) and Infernal Affairs II (2003).
A group of artists also came to record the last moments of the famed tourist attraction. “It’s a pity. I used to come here to yum cha when I was small,” said Jeff Lo, a 40-year-old surveyor who arrived at 6am. A sampan operator surnamed Wong, who has been working in Aberdeen for 30 years, said his business was affected after the protests in 2019 and the emergence of the pandemic.
“I will probably have to retire. Half of my business will be affected once the floating restaurant leaves,” he said.
The restaurant has been closed since early 2020, with its owner reporting an accumulated loss in excess of HK$100 million (US$12.74 million) after the pandemic devastated tourism and catering industries in the city. On June 1, a 30-metre kitchen barge connected to the restaurant capsized, two days after the restaurant’s operator announced it would leave the city because of a lack of funds for maintenance.
Before the incident, parent company Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises said it would look for a new home for Jumbo outside the city, while it waited for a new operator, as it could not afford the costs of maintaining the facility to meet the government’s requirements. It had failed to reach an agreement with Ocean Park over the offer to donate the restaurant.
While lawmakers urged the government to save it, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor insisted authorities had no plans in investing taxpayers’ money in the landmark, adding that they were not good at running such premises.