Restaurants and eateries on “exotic gourmet street” at Shida Night Market in Taipei yesterday shut their doors during the lunch hour to protest the Taipei City Government’s recent crackdown on illegal businesses in the area.
After hanging protest signs that read: “Why target only Shida commercial area? Is it fair?” on their doors, about 30 restaurants on Pucheng Street and Longquan Street delayed opening until late yesterday afternoon.
The move, restaurant owners said, was aimed at raising public awareness of local business’ contributions to the area.
“We are hoping that by closing our doors during the lunch hour, local residents and students will understand how inconvenient it is without places for them to go for lunch,” an employee at an Indian restaurant said.
Vendors’ self-help association spokesman Ker Yu-you (柯裕佑) said local business owners would continue their efforts in an attempt to ensure the survival of their businesses and he urged the city government not to make its top tourist attraction disappear.
The local residents’ self-help association, on the other hand, insisted that the city government should not allow illegal businesses to stay in the area, noting the air and noise pollution, as well as the public hazard caused by some shops and restaurants.
“Local residents are the real victims here. Illegal businesses should close their doors forever and give us back a clean and safe living environment,” association director Liu Cheng-wei (劉振偉) said.
Taipei City Government spokesman Chang Chi-chiang (張其強) said the city government’s goal of maintaining a safe and quiet environment for residents remained the same.
“It’s not our goal to eliminate the night market, we only target businesses that have caused serious public safety concerns and that have violated the regulations,” he said.
Disputes over the night market began after Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) announced in November last year that expansion of the market would not be allowed following a growing number of complaints from residents about the trash and noise vendors and customers caused.
In addition to noise and air pollution, some local vendors have also violated regulations as their locations are classified as a residential zone. According to land-use regulations, roads less than 6m wide in residential zones cannot be used for commercial purposes.
Taipei City’s Construction Regulation Office said it has issued notices to 91 shops in the area that have violated regulations. In addition to Shida, a coffee shop in Yongkang commercial area (永康商圈), another popular destination filled with small shops and restaurants, also received notice from the city government as it is located in an alley less than 6m wide.
Chang dismissed concerns that the city government is targeting specific commercial districts, saying the coffee shop in Yongkang is an individual case, because local residents had filed complaints against the shop.