Date
21 October 2019
A file picture depicts signage for Club Tonnochy in the Wanchai area. The club was a prominent name in Hong Kong's raucous nighttime entertainment scene in an earlier era. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A file picture depicts signage for Club Tonnochy in the Wanchai area. The club was a prominent name in Hong Kong's raucous nighttime entertainment scene in an earlier era. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A property deal evokes memories of HK’s golden era nightclubs

Tonnochy nightclub may be gone, but not its legacy. In fact, one could argue that the fabled Hong Kong hotspot is worth more dead than alive.

In a recent transaction, the site of the famous Wanchai nightspot that signified the golden 80s era of Hong Kong was sold for an eye-popping HK$892 million.

That marked a more than 100 percent increase in the property value in little less than ten years, a jump we can assume was in part due to its iconic status and appeal. 

We do not know how the seller, a person known in real estate circles as “Taiwan Cheung”, is feeling now after the disposal, despite the hefty return, having bought it for HK$435 million in January 2010.

The new owner of the 30,000-square-foot site in Jaffe Road is Arch Capital, a real estate investment firm that was founded in 2006 as a joint venture with Philippine conglomerate Ayala Group.

The deal for the property at 250 and 274 Jaffe Road represents the second big purchase in the Hong Kong market for the now independently owned boutique real estate equity fund this year, after it earlier paid HK$19 billion for an asset at 69 Jervois Street.

Club Tonnochy, which was officially closed in 2002, reinvented itself as a restaurant although people still remember it by its former identity.

The club, along with two other similar entertainment venues in Tsim Sha Tsui — Club Volvo and Club Chinatown — had its heyday in the 1980s when it catered to big spenders and those looking for more-than-the usual entertainment.

Among the patrons were many manufacturers and importers who splurged on wine and women, having made easy money during the economic boom.

There are stories replete of nouveau-riche businessmen entering the clubs with swagger, with a lady on each arm, and throwing money around with seemingly no care in the world.

Well, we still have some big spenders but the activities have now mostly shifted to nightspots in mainland China, following a relocation of manufacturing facilities.

As patrons diminished, Hong Kong saw several glitzy and lavish nightclubs close one after the other, bringing the curtains down on what many pleasure seekers would call a golden age. 

The shuttering of the once-famous nightclubs illustrates a paradigm shift in the broader economy. As factories moved out of Hong Kong and into mainland China, it is where all the action is now as far as rich businessmen are concerned, including their amorous pursuits.

Club Volvo was closed in 2002 followed by Club Chinatown in 2005. Falling business and rising rentals prompted the decisions. Introduction of new indoor anti-smoking regulations by authorities also proved a killer for the business.

The big night clubs are now history, but their memories still linger and the properties seem to command substantial premiums in the real estate market.

The latest deal for the property that once housed Tonnochy is proof of that. Also, times may have changed, but money still rules!

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RC

EJ Insight writer