Hong Kong’s Jumbo Floating Restaurant — a famed but ageing tourist attraction that hosted Queen Elizabeth II and featured in many Hollywood films — has been towed out of the city’s harbour after the COVID-19 pandemic finally sank the struggling business.

The massive floating structure — which was designed like a Chinese imperial palace and at 76 metres long could house 2,300 diners — was towed from Aberdeen Harbour on Tuesday. 

Since its establishment in 1976, it had received more than 30 million guests.

But Jumbo Floating Restaurant was forced to close in 2020 due to the pandemic, and all staff were laid off.

Parent company Aberdeen Restaurant Enterprises said it had become a financial burden to shareholders, as millions of Hong Kong dollars were spent on inspection and maintenance of the structure every year, even though the restaurant was not in operation.

People gather at a table at the entrance to a restaurant flanked by two statues of giant dragons
The massive floating structure could seat 2,300 diners.(AP: Kin Cheung)

It said potential deals to keep the restaurant open were thwarted by the high operating costs.

Tugboats towed the restaurant away but it wasn’t clear where it would berth next. The company planned to move it to a lower-cost site where maintenance could still be conducted.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam had previously rejected suggestions the city bail out the restaurant, despite calls from politicians to preserve the landmark.

Hong Kong Jumbo Floating Restaurant 3
Closures and millions spent on maintenance and COVID cleaning forced the closure of the restaurant.(AP: Kin Cheung)

Lam said last month that the government had no plans to invest taxpayers’ money into the restaurant as it was “not good” at running such premises.

Some Hong Kong residents recalled the heyday of Jumbo Kingdom, and expressed disappointment in seeing the restaurant go.

It was famed for its lavish banquet meals, with dishes such as roasted suckling pig, lobster and double-boiled bird’s nest, a Chinese delicacy.

Wong Chi-wah, a boat operator in Aberdeen Harbour, said that in the glory days of the Jumbo Floating Restaurant in the 1990s, flocks of Japanese tourists would visit the restaurants.

“The streets were full of parked vehicles as visitors arrived in big groups,” he said.

Encore Sin, 71, said Hong Kong was losing something unique.

“Over the past few decades, I’ve been to many places around the world to take photographs, but where else in the world are there such floating restaurants? I don’t think there are any left.”