Tim's Texas Roadhouse holds out in the Wild, Wild East
The Wall Street Journal has published a story about Tim’s Texas Roadhouse, the last place standing on the former Super Bar Street, where tenants were cleared with little notice and at times under threatening conditions. From the story, found on the WSJ Web site and in its Asia paper edition [my highlights]:
China’s capital might not seem like a natural spot for a taste of the Lone Star State. But for the two years that he ran Tim’s Texas Roadhouse on a dusty strip called Super Bar Street here, Tim Hilbert says he felt right at home.
No longer. For the last three months Mr. Hilbert has been making an Alamo-like stand against local government plans to renovate the area with a big new development. Today, the Roadhouse is all that remains of Super Bar Street, alone in an expanse of dirt and cement surrounded by a barbed wire-topped wall erected by the developer. The dozens of other restaurants, bars, and shops on the once-busy stretch have been demolished, in many cases after proprietors were forced out by gangs of club-wielding thugs.
The story reports on the short notice given to tenants, the efforts of Tim’s Texas Roadhouse owner Tim Hilbert to use the legal system given that he feels he has been offered too little compensation, and his hiring of a “half dozen Chinese guards, out-of-town toughs” to protect the place.
It also describes the intimidation used against some tenants on the street that included everything from Africa-themed bars to Japanese restaurants to hair shops:
On May 12, Seven Colors [the company that serves as landlord] posted notices throughout the neighborhood saying it would be demolished, and that tenants had until May 31 to get out. “It was really a shock,” says Bai Jie, who ran the Afro Arena bar, a hotspot for African residents of Beijing. “We had no preparation at all.”
Some owners pushed back. Helen Ma, a Hong Kong woman who ran a bar called Shamba, complained to local government officials on May 16. Two days later, dozens of burly men with short haircuts showed up at her place, dragged her and several employees out, and locked the door, she says. Ms. Ma says they punched her and yanked her hair, while police simply watched.
Several other tenants said in interviews that they witnessed or experienced physical violence, from gangs of men often carrying steel pipes or wooden clubs. It’s unclear who the men worked for.
Police didn’t respond to requests for comment. Mr. Zhang of Seven Colors said that reports of physical abuse are “just rumors.” No one from Purple Dragon [the demolition company to remove the establishment] could be reached, and Mr. Zhang declined to comment about that company’s role.
In a faxed statement, the government of Jiangtai Village – the Beijing sub-district where Super Bar Street is located – said the reclamation and demolition of the area, as well as compensation procedures for the tenants, have followed the law. It said police officials had received no complaints about “public order incidents” relate to the demolition.
See the Wall Street Journal article for full details.
And as for what will replace Super Bar Street, well, that seems to be a bit of a mystery: “Among the enigmas in the case: who is developing the land, and what will they be building. The development is called the “Run Shi Center,” and local officials have said it’s a “key project.” Mr. Zhang of Seven Colors said the government of Beijing’s Chaoyang district is behind it, but declined to elaborate. Chaoyang officials didn’t respond to questions.”