19 November 2018
Jonathan Zeman has restructured the California Tower and California Entertainment Building into one mega-structure. Photo: HKEJ
Jonathan Zeman has restructured the California Tower and California Entertainment Building into one mega-structure. Photo: HKEJ

The son also rises: Jonathan Zeman steps out of father’s shadow

A little bit of nonsense.

That’s how Jonathan Zeman, the 39-year-old son of business tycoon Allan Zeman, described a recent court ruling that the Ladies Night promotion offered by many operators of bars and disco clubs in Hong Kong is discriminatory.

The district court has ruled that a disco bar in Mong Kok violated the Sex Discrimination Ordinance by charging different entrance fees for male and female guests, with the former being charged much more.

Bar operators, however, vowed to continue with the Ladies Night tradition, although they will also consider introducing Gentlemen’s Night to appease complaining male guests.

The practice of offering free entrance or charging nominal fees to female guests during certain nights of the week is meant to attract more business.

The idea is that if more girls come to a bar, more boys will patronize the place.

Zeman, however, said the court ruling will not affect the family business.

The LKF Group, of which he is the chief executive, operates three eateries, which are not pubs but restaurant and bar units.

He said business has not been affected by the economic slowdown. Overall occupancy rate in the LKF outlets is over 90 percent.

The reason, for him, is simple: No matter how bad the economy might be, people would still need food, drinks and friends.

Speaking about property prices, which have become unaffordable for many young people, Zeman said it is “a matter of tens of millions”.

He said there are two possible solutions to the issue.

The traditional approach would be to pull the resources of the entire family together into an investment.

Or, if they are clever, creative and courageous, they could establish their own startups, which might be able to rake in enough income to enable them to buy a flat.

Zeman admits that his career sprang from the first option, and he will do the same for his children.

He was seven years old when his father opened his first business in Lan Kwai Fong, the California Restaurant.

The young Zeman was not allowed to chill out in the area until he turned 18.

The removal of the ban was crucial; he later met his true love Melinda at a bar in the neighborhood. Zeman called it “destiny”. The couple married in 2009.

Allan Zeman has been a household name in Hong Kong. He’s known as the Father of Lan Kwai Fong, and a creative but astute entrepreneur.

During his term as chairman of Ocean Park, he was famous for adopting various costumes and disguises to surprise visitors to the theme park.

Yet the younger Zeman can’t remember his dad having performed any “cosplay” during Halloween or Christmas in his childhood years.

And unlike his father, who has been active in city affairs, Jonathan is not interested in politics at the moment, saying he might be “overly logical” for the job.

Jonathan’s biggest decision so far is the revamp of California Tower and California Entertainment Building into one mega-structure.

Completed in 2014, the new flagship tower is 27 stories with a total gross building area of over 10,000 square meters.

It took him three years to persuade his father to allow the restructuring.

After all, the two buildings housed many good old memories, and it was the place that started the elder Zeman’s rise to fame and fortune.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 28.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Writer of the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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