Does anyone miss the good time for nightlife in Hong Kong? We used to have Nightlife in Hong Kong Mandarin event held at Lan Kwai Fong and Wanchai before COV-19.
Lan Kwai Fong was one of the world’s great nightlife areas when I arrived in Hong Kong in 1995. Drinking and dining district that had sprouted up in two run-down Central backstreets was at its peak. Tourists and locals alike thronged bars such as California, Club 97, Yelts Inn and Le Jardin. By ADAM WRIGHT
“It was crazy, carefree and unique. Patrons spilled out of bars onto the streets, and the sense of camaraderie, of being part of an enormous but exclusive party, was incredible.”
A visit to the district during happy hour on May 1 – two days after bars were allowed to re-open after a five-month shutdown – found about a quarter of ground-floor venues shuttered and the survivors lucky to have more than one table occupied.
The loss of business caused by the double whammy of the 2019 protests and the government-ordered shutdowns during the ongoing pandemic were the final nails in the coffin for many venues.
Lan Kwai Fong is a rectangular district comprising the upper stretch of D’Aguilar Street and the smaller, L-shaped Lan Kwai Fong lane. In the years before and immediately after the war, the area was dominated by flower sellers – as suggested by the translation of its name, “orchid square” – and marriage brokers.
The story of modern Lan Kwai Fong started in 1978 when the famed nightclub Disco Disco was opened in a basement on then-dilapidated D’Aguilar Street by the late impresario Gordon Huthart, who dreamed of turning the surrounding area into a local version of Tokyo’s Ginza district.
Allan Zeman, the name now most associated with Lan Kwai Fong, opened California Restaurant further down on D’Aguilar Street in 1983. He bought the entire block the following year, marking the beginning of his dominance of the district.
Zeman’s Lan Kwai Fong Group drove the development of the area during the following decade and it remains the biggest landlord in Lan Kwai Fong, controlling a reported 65 per cent of properties.
“I remember Lan Kwai Fong in the 1990s as being vibrant and energetic, packed with Hongkongers and expats, tourists and businessmen,” Sebrof told HKFP. “Corporate credit cards were everywhere, funding wild nights out. Long lunches every Friday were the norm, and nobody went back to the office – the party continued into the weekend.
“It was crazy, carefree and unique. Patrons spilled out of bars onto the streets, and the sense of camaraderie, of being part of an enormous but exclusive party, was incredible. People worked hard and played harder in those days – a cliché I know, but that was what Lan Kwai Fong was all about.”
What do you think about Lan Kwai Fong?
I think its a good topic to discuss, perhaps a more limited set of geoexpat can chip in, since you need to been here long enough to have experienced LKF in 2010-2012 era but not old enough so that you stopped going out by then. I happen to be in the group of people that arrived here in 2011 and had a thirst for partying in LKF.
Indeed it changed so much since then. I ascribe it to a multiple set of factors:
1. Social media has been mentioned but maybe its something deeper with the younger generation, maybe its also playing games on Playstations/PCs etc. I was a nerd when I was young, that kept me away from the clubs, but back then people like me were in such a minority. Today its mainstream.
2. Areas like SYP, Tin Hau and perhaps a more developed party scene on Kowloon Side (Not so sure how big Knutsford Terrace was back in 2011) basically dilluted the LKF crowd. Some people elected to stay in SYP or Kennedy Town instead as the areas developed.
3. LKF became very expensive during these years, not sure what happened. Some combination effect of rents/property going through the roof, 7-Elevens opening up and taking more customers. I remember in 2011 that a beer used to be pretty affordable in most clubs, whereas when I went out in 2013 and ordered 4 large Stellas I thought he was joking in the bar when he wanted 120 HKD a piece. Same thing happened in Wan Chai with places like Joe Bananas when it reopened, used to be outright cheap, but after re-open they wanted like 80 HKD for a San Mig bottle, wtf?
Its not really that important for me anymore, I got old as well. But I do miss the old LKF days sometimes and I wish the youngsters in HK could experience how wild and fun a night out in 2012 used to be. As I walk by the area pre-covid the only times I get the feeling of how a regular Saturday was in 2012 is on days like Halloween or some big celebration weekend, then the crowds reach similar levels like it used to be week after week. By RobRoy
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