Coronavirus woes force famous Hong Kong snake restaurant to shut

People wearing face masks line up outside a snake restaurant in Hong Kong

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A famous Hong Kong snake meat restaurant, She Wong Yee, will shut its doors this month after more than three decades in business, as the coronavirus keeps customers away.

Located in the usually bustling Causeway Bay shopping district, the restaurant is best known for its long-simmered snake soup, which has been praised by the Michelin guide and is listed in its Bib Gourmand category for affordable dining.

Restaurant manager Lo Cheong Hei says business started to drop after the Lunar New Year holidays in late January, as the number of coronavirus cases crept higher, and more Hong Kong people stopped going out.

"After the Lunar New Year, our business plunged over 70%," Lo said.

The restaurant was now losing up to HK$200,000 ($25,800) a month after paying rent and salaries and buying ingredients.

Hong Kong's economy, already facing its first recession in a decade due to the U.S.-China trade war and months of often violent anti-government protests, has been dealt a huge blow by the coronavirus.

Nearly 1,000 people in Hong Kong have tested positive for the virus and four of them have died.

Many shops, bars and restaurants have been forced to close, at least temporarily, including the Jumbo Floating Restaurant featured in a James Bond movie and indie club Hidden Agenda: This Town Needs. [nL3N2AS2TX]

She Wong Yee customer Dino Wong lamented its imminent closure.

"The food the restaurant served is delicious," Wong said.

"There will be one less place we can eat this delicacy and that's a real pity."

Lo, who has worked in the restaurant for 20 years, said he hoped it might open again one day.

"Apart from my home, this is the place I am most attached to," Lo said.


(Reporting by Yoyo Chow; Editing by Marius Zaharia and Robert Birsel)