Real estate boom, spiralling rents have shut many businesses

Impatient diners crowd around carts of steaming dim sum steered by fierce “trolley aunties” at Hong Kong’s Lin Heung Tea House, one of the city’s most famous restaurants, now fearing for its future.

Lin Heung’s traditional homemade dishes, including cha siu bao (barbecue pork buns), har gow (shrimp dumplings) and ma lai go (Cantonese sponge cake), have earned a loyal following from locals with a taste for nostalgia, as well as inquisitive tourists.

The two-storey restaurant in the bustling Central district has multiple top listings in global travel guides and serves customers from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m., seven days a week.

Diners sit elbow-to-elbow at shared round tables, metal spittoons still tucked beside them, the walls hung with decorative bird cages and traditional Chinese numerals used for menu prices.

But the restaurant says the building’s new owner has not yet contacted them about renewing their lease, despite it expiring early next year, and they feel in the dark about the landlord’s intentions.

That has sparked fears that Lin Heung will be the latest Hong Kong culinary treasure to fall foul of the city’s thirst for redevelopment.

The building’s landlord, CSI Properties, said it could not comment on the case.

Lin Heung’s possible demise has been widely reported by local media and worried regulars say they are visiting as much as they can in case it closes.

The city’s housing market was crowned the most expensive in the world in 2017. The selling off of older buildings, as well as spiralling rents, has spelled the end for a number of family-run neighbourhood favourites across Hong Kong.

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