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Blog // Travel
May 26, 2009

Hong Kong And The Tale Of Two Bans

Two bits of entertainment related news that are worth tracking in Hong Kong right now. It seems that local government has, in its wisdom, decided to close down dining in public squares in the Central district. There are a few restaurants that have outdoor tables (with appropriate permits) and they are now being shut down. […]

Two bits of entertainment related news that are worth tracking in Hong Kong right now.

It seems that local government has, in its wisdom, decided to close down dining in public squares in the Central district. There are a few restaurants that have outdoor tables (with appropriate permits) and they are now being shut down. One that is at the centre of the controversy has the nicest urban outdoor eating space I’ve yet found in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has, for its size and the diversity of its food culture, a surprisingly small number of outdoor tables and and even smaller number offering upmarket, or even mid-market, quality food. That’s an obvious deficit, compared to other global cities.

This isn’t a “tourist” issue, but also a local quality of life issue. When a city is committed to it’s “street” culture – not just eating, but walking, shopping and socialising – then there can be a lot of things that flow from that, in terms of planning and development that work towards protecting the human scale.

Another bit of news is the soon to be implemented city-wide ban on smoking in eateries and entertainment venues. Most places saw a partial ban come into effect two years ago, but an extension was granted to some pubs and venues. However, the extension runs out on July the 1st.

As far as I’m concerned it can’t come soon enough. Musicians shouldn’t be forced to suffer the long term effects of second hand smoke in order to have a career playing live. Full stop.

Of course, there are some protests, with the old hoary economic arguments being thrown out – if the ban comes in, bars will close, people will lose jobs, etc. But, the experience from other cities that have such bans doesn’t fully support that.

Here in Hong Kong the percentage of the adult population that smokes is less than 12%. Think about that. Not all those smokers will, en masse, stop going to pubs and bars because of the ban. Then, think about the other 88%. How many don’t frequent pubs and bars because of the smoke and might now change their habits.

Well, here’s one. As much as I love live music, an act has to be pretty special for me to endure a night of second hand smoke. I’m looking forward to the ban and to seeing more live music and enjoying more of Hong Kong’s creative scene.

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