25 October 2016
Dan Ryan's, along with another restaurant Grappa's, at Pacific Place will soon become history because the landlord has refused to renew the lease. Photo: Internet
Dan Ryan's, along with another restaurant Grappa's, at Pacific Place will soon become history because the landlord has refused to renew the lease. Photo: Internet

Dan Ryan’s and Grappa’s: What their Pacific Place saga tells us

Admiralty is not only a key location for Hong Kong’s financial sector businesses, it also serves as a hub for many high-end restaurants and luxury hotels in the city.

But personally, when it comes to my go-to dining destination in the area, I always prefer Dan Ryan’s and Grappa’s, the two casual dining restaurants in Pacific Place that serve moderately-priced food as compared to other luxurious and expensive restaurants nearby.

Unfortunately, these two restaurants, which were among the hottest hang-outs for white-collar workers and young professionals in Admiralty over the past three decades, will soon be gone.

The reason: Pacific Place’s owner has decided not to renew the leases of the two food outlets.

I made my first acquaintance with Dan Ryan’s many years ago when I returned to Hong Kong from England during a summer school break. 

It was quite an eye-opener for me because Dan Ryan’s served authentic and traditional American-style burgers, as opposed to those sold in McDonald’s that every Hongkonger has been so used to.

It was definitely love at first bite for me, and since then I have become a regular. Even now, it remains my most favorite place for hanging out with colleagues, friends or even socializing with government officials.

When I was studying very hard for the Post Graduate Certificate in Laws (PCLL) back in the early 2000s, Dan Ryan’s used to be my last sanctuary to get relaxed, where I could enjoy its lovely cheese cakes and potato wedges along with a couple of beers, with my friends and classmates.

Despite the skyrocketing inflation in our city over the past twenty years, Dan Ryan’s didn’t raise the prices of its dishes much, quite to my surprise.

Perhaps it is precisely because of that reason that the landlord thinks the restaurant’s earnings growth prospects are limited, and that it will be difficult to charge the outlet a much higher rental.

Grappa’s is also another favorite dining place for lawyers, because it is just a five-minute walk from the High Court building.

On any given weekday you can always find dozens of lawyers digging in at Grappa’s during lunch hours. It is also a popular place for many senior barristers and law firm partners to toast with champagne whenever they have won a lawsuit.

Given that many lawyers and barristers have had wonderful times at Grappa’s over the years, news of the outlet’s impending closure prompted dismay among the legal community.

Two lawyers — Jonathan Midgley and Jackie Ho — opened a Facebook page titled “Save Grappa’s” in order to rally support for the restaurant. So far, the page has drawn 1,250 “likes”.

In recent years we have often heard news stories about local small, family-run stores being evicted by landlords or forced out of the neighborhood by real estate developers.

It appears people in our city have already got so used to their collective memories being taken away bit by bit in the name of urban renewal that no one seems to care anymore.

Given people’s general indifference, “real estate hegemony” now rears its ugly head not only in our neighborhoods, but also in the areas where we go to work.

The closure of Dan Ryan’s and Grappa’s might mean nothing to most people, but isn’t it another striking example of how big developers are destroying the community ecology in our society?

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 29.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Legco member representing the Legal functional constituency (2012-2016) and a founding member of Civic Party

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