Actually, one does hear tales about knock-off fruit in the mainland – oranges not distributed by Sunkist with a Sunkist sticker on them, as one example. But that’s not what I’m writing about here.
This from the SCMP a few days ago:
After the last pints were pulled at one of Wan Chai’s oldest bars in February, Joe Bananas is making a comeback.
It’s now clad in bamboo scaffolding, and the new owners of the “original” Joe Bananas – famed for three-decades of wet T-shirt contests, A-list celebrities and top music bands – are advertising for staff to join the new venture.
But regular beer drinkers will be forgiven for wanting the same experience.
The new owner, who also owns the Rio and Escape bars on Jaffe Road, reached a deal to move into the premises on Luard Road.
Joe Bananas, opened in 1986 by expat Scots Laura McAllister and Andy Neilson, shut its doors in February to the disappointment of its loyal fans and new ones just discovering its respite from the rough and tumble Wan Chai overrun by sailors and working girls.
Neilson and McAllister sold up in 2000 and three months ago lost the lease.
But the previous owners told the South China Morning Post this week they had retained the bar name and trademark in a bid to reopen nearby.
It is not clear whether an agreement to buy the full naming rights to the bar has been reached.
So typical lazy reporting from the SCMP. I’m going to ignore the moronic bit about “rough and tumble Wan Chai overrun by sailors and working girls.” Because first of all, the sailor thing only happens a few times a year. Working girls, “overrun” is a matter of opinion, but Joe Bananas always had its share of those after 10 PM.
According to my (usually accurate) sources, the owners of Joe Bananas did not lose the lease. How do you lose a lease? You misfile the papers somewhere? The dog ate it? No. The lease came up for renewal and someone else was legally allowed to come along and outbid the then-current occupants for the lease. And it’s the same group of people who several years ago caused the demise of Laguna, replaced by Insiders. Hong Kong is a “free market economy” which in this case translates to zero laws to protect a business that has been in place for 28 years.
For awhile, the new lease holders had giant signs up mentioning Rio, their new-ish disco that’s in a basement next to the Spicy Fingers bar. Now they’ve changed it to “Re-Opening Soon! The Original Joe Bananas!” Because in Hong Kong you can basically lie in advertisements.
And how can it not be clear if an agreement has or has not been reached to sell or license the bar name? In particular when the preceding paragraph clearly states that the previous owners retained the name and hope to re-open in another location?
And why is it that the SCMP can’t get even such a simple story straight?
I have never been a big fan of Joe Bananas, though I have plenty of friends who were and I’ve had my share of good times in that bar. And I recognize the fact that it’s something of an iconic spot in Wan Chai. I believe it was the first “normal” bar to open in that area.
I just think it’s a pretty crappy situation if indeed someone has come along, outbid an existing business for their lease, and then decides to keep the name and logo of the previous business. What’s the point of investing money and blood, sweat, tears and years of your life building up a business, only to have it taken away from you in such a manner?
Maybe it’s not the case. Maybe my friends got it wrong. And maybe the new bar will be great. It’s a big space in a great location. I just think that if this story is true, this really sucks.