The Iconic Hong Kong Restaurant That's The Latest COVID-19 Casualty

Hong Kong might have been known as a dining mecca with scores of quality Cantonese restaurants, but there was something special about the Jumbo Floating Restaurant. 

It was established in 1976 by a flamboyant casino magnate and for decades, it was the grande dame that sat in Hong Kong's Aberdeen Harbour, ready to feed tourists and VIPs with dim sum and banquet-style Cantonese dishes in a setting unlike any other. In her heyday, the Jumbo Floating Restaurant, which was built to look like a Chinese palace, served as the backdrop for several movies including "The Man with the Golden Gun" and "Contagion," per Yahoo. It served 30 billion tourists and locals alike and was so unique that it became destination dining for Hong Kong's important guests — from royalty like Queen Elizabeth II to actors like Tom Cruise, per Associated Press

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and such was the case with the Jumbo, which finally succumbed to the heavy financial pressure aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic. It was towed away by a number of tugboats to an undisclosed location which its owners, Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises, described as "a lower-cost site where maintenance could still be conducted," per ABC News

The Jumbo Restaurant cost millions of dollars to maintain

According to the Hong Kong Free Press, the floating restaurant's parent company is said to have picked up a deficit of more than $100 million Hong Kong dollars (approximately $12.73 million USD) since 2013. But it wasn't until March 2020 that the restaurant had to close because of COVID-19 restrictions. And while there were plans to donate the floating restaurant to a nearby theme park, the donation was rejected, because the park's management couldn't find anyone to operate it.

In a statement, Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises said that it had tried to speak to more than a dozen firms about taking on the restaurant. "However there was no taker, with all parties citing high operating costs," it said, per Yahoo. Even while closed, the restaurant continued to cost its owners millions, since it needed to be inspected and maintained, ABC News notes. Perhaps the final nail in the Jumbo's coffin came earlier this month, when its kitchen barge, located behind the restaurant, tipped on its side and sank.

Hong Kongers mourned the loss of their floating icon. As one sampan operator told the South China Morning Post, "How can I bear to let it go? This is a landmark which has helped boost Hong Kong's economy, from tourism and catering to the hotel industry." 

He added: "Without a landmark, how do you attract tourists to Hong Kong? They can go to other countries to look for a distinctive experience."