Tuesday, March 30, 2010

There goes the neighbourhood in earnest (The Beginning of The End?)

I fretted four months ago about the threatened imminent dissolution of Nanluoguxiang as we currently know it.

It would appear that the process has begun. Popular Indian restaurant Mirch Marsala closed down a few weeks back. Fish Nation shut its doors last week (I had boycotted it some months ago for its dismal service, but I rather miss it now it's gone; I have quite a few happy memories of its four-and-a-half years or so in operation there), and I hear its next-door neighbour Saveurs de Corée is set to follow suit any day now (now, that place I really will miss: the best restaurant on the street).

Gossip blames these evictions simply on rent-gouging landlords, but you have to fear it's connected in some way with the alleged local government plans to redevelop the area. Of course, the mere announcement of such plans naturally encourages landlords to become more avaricious. But maybe there's something more targeted about this, some nefarious operation of 'policy' - a nudge here and a wink there, perhaps passed on by the local coppers, the significant hint that it would be a good idea to clear the current tenants out of a certain stretch of the street. And in some cases, I believe, the local government is directly the landlord of NLGX's beleaguered small businesses (although this may not be a very meaningful distinction in China, where all land can revert to the government at the drop of a hat anyway).

I fear these closures - of three of the swankest and most successful restaurants on the street - are an omen of a miserable summer ahead of us.

[Although the replacement of a bunch of small coffee shops and t-shirt boutiques with larger coffee shops and t-shirt boutiques on Nanluoguxiang is as nothing to the proposed butchering of the Gulou area which also seems set to get under way quite shortly. Grim times in Beijing. I almost wish the Olympics were back.]

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