Residents flocking to noodle shop for a final bowl of very tasty and traditional Guangdong-style dish
A Guangzhou noodle restaurant which became an overnight sensation after it was featured in a blockbuster TV series is struggling with a huge rent increase and may have to close its doors next week.
Guangzhou residents are flocking to the 26-seat restaurant for a last bite of the traditional Guangdong-style noodles after news of the imminent closure went viral on the Internet.
Li Shilin, the 59-year-old owner, said that he is still looking for a new location. It will take at least a month for the restaurant to reopen.
Media coverage has also caught the local government's attention. Officials in Guangzhou's Liwan district, where the restaurant is located, accompanied Li on Wednesday when he met his landlord to negotiate the rent. The two sides failed to reach an agreement.
The restaurant, which has been in business for eight years, is in a narrow street and was barely known by people outside the neighborhood until the May 15 episode of A Bite of China, a popular China Central Television series on traditional Chinese food.
After the TV show, the restaurant's business jumped 20 to 30 percent.
"I'm not sure whether the landlord's decision to double the rent is related to the boom in business," Li said. The restaurant's lease will run out on June 20 and the landlord asked for the new rent on May 20.
Li said that he initially rented the store for 4,500 yuan ($711) a month in 2004 and that the rent has increased 10 percent every year since then. The current rent is 9,860 yuan a month.
"I don't want to raise the price of my noodles. But I won't be able to make ends meet if I need to pay a rent of 18,000 yuan per month," Li said.
"It shows lack of sensitivity to suddenly double the rent and I don't think it's a reasonable price for a store in a quiet neighborhood. I can pay 12,000 yuan per month at most," he said.
Kong Jinman, who works for a real estate agency 200 meters away from the restaurant, said that the average rent for a store along Heping West Road, where the restaurant is located, is 80 to 120 yuan per square meter per month.
"I don't think the landlord can find a new tenant if he sticks to 18,000 yuan per month," Kong said. He believes that the rent was increased because the restaurant is now a culinary attraction.
Yan Runkeng had to take a one-hour bus ride and then stand in queue outside for another hour before he could enjoy a bowl of noodles. The 62-year-old man grew up in Liwan district and said that he misses the local cuisine after he moved to Haizhu district about 10 years ago.
"A lot of small restaurants selling traditional local foods are being forced out of business or have to relocate due to the high rents these days," Yan said.
"Actually, I don't mind if these restaurants have to raise prices or move to another place. I will still be willing to travel long distances to find them as long as they can keep the traditional local foods from dying out," he added.
Meanwhile, in order to protect local old brands with a history of more than 50 years, the Liwan district government said it is planning to provide financial support of 1 million yuan per year to these establishments. The scheme was published for public discussion on the government's website from May 21 to May 31.
By Xu Jingxi in Guangzhou (China Daily)