Amble around Soho and it’s hard not to be lured into Chinatown – a colourful beacon that sets itself apart from the surrounding streets with glowing lanterns and distinctive red arches. Plus, it’s one of the only places in London that promises affordable eats at every doorway. It’s hard to imagine the city without the area. But, sadly, it’s the latest place on our city’s cultural map that could be set to disappear. Traders from the oriental restaurants and shops between Leicester Square and Soho have said today that they could be forced out if rents rocket any higher.
Restaurateur Jon Man told the Evening Standard his rent has risen from £66,000 to an astonishing £244,000 per year since 2000. If costs keep rising, Man’s future is clear: ‘I won’t be able to stay. There will be no point in me being here’, he says. ‘So many of my friends have already gone. I can’t see how Chinatown will be here in five years’ time. Not as I know it.’
And he’s not the only one – fellow traders at Loon Tao on Gerrard Street told reporters that their rent has almost doubled in the past five years alone and are looking to make a speedy exit.
Landlord Shaftesbury PLC, which owns 71 premises in the area, insists it has ‘a long-term commitment to supporting the local community through its strategy of creating lively, prosperous and interesting destinations in the West End to maintain the areas’, but what’s left definitely won’t be the Chinatown we know and love.
It’s yet another of London’s vibrant landmarks that could be lost to gentrification, with countless clubs and venues in Soho and the surrounding areas already having been forced to shut up shop due to rising rents. We’ve already mourned favourites like Madame Jojo‘s recently and we just can’t afford to see a whole area wiped out and replaced by boring chain restaurants or betting shops, which can thrive in small premises on high rents. But, it’s not too late to save Chinatown or London as we know it. Find out how you can help save our city here.
By Hayley Spencer
Food For Thought in Covent Garden is on its way out, too.