■ Spiritualized plays Sunday at 8pm at NeoStudio, 5F, 22 Songshou Rd, Taipei (台北市松壽路22號5樓). Tickets are NT$2,500, NT$2,300 in advance.
Shida update: With the economy hovering around zero growth, one has to wonder at the stupidity of Taipei City government as it continues its regulatory strangulation of small businesses in the once-thriving Shida student district. It’s offering a precedent that any small shop in the city could be closed on a bureaucratic whim. Or is something even more nefarious happening?
In November, the city’s latest round of fines and warnings hit 28 businesses and included Da Han Men (大韓門), a Korean restaurant that’s been in operation at its current location for 20 years. Despite the Korean barbecues’ longstanding run, the city last month issued it a NT$100,000 fine, saying it is in violation of zoning laws. Presumably, it has been violating the same laws for the last two decades. Nevertheless, it will close. Da Han Men is on the west side of Shida Park and an immediate neighbor to Roxy Jr. Cafe, which was forced to close earlier this year (for excessive noise and other violations, not zoning laws) after 18 years in business.
Other businesses along the park, including Vino Vino and Evans Burger, have also been threatened by various regulations, according to reports. Zabu, a popular cafe, also closed in November based on general fears of what was happening in the neighborhood.
Generally speaking, many business owners in Shida feel that they are caught up in a Kafkaesque real estate scam. So far in 2012, the city has shut down around one third of 356 small shops and restaurants located outside the three blocks of the commercially zoned night market area. Real estate values for first floor lots throughout the neighborhood have dropped sharply, with one recent sale of a first and second floor space netting less than one third the value it would have sold for two years ago, says area business owner Andy Singh.
First floor residential properties are generally valued at one-third to one-fourth the price of commercial properties, and the city’s anti-business policies are quite clearly pushing property values down in a narrowly targeted area. Many business owners believe that property developers are already buying up the newly depressed properties and intend to redevelop.
As early as August, in Longchuan Ward (龍泉里), which contains the busiest parts of Shida Night Market, the warden chief Pang Wei-liang (龐維良) was sending letters to local residents urging them to participate in urban redevelopment schemes. A month earlier, I attended a meeting at Taipei City Council at which Pang assured more than 50 Shida business owners that he had their interests at heart. One wonders whose side he is really on. And one further wonders whom the city is helping, and why.