Taipei gov’t takes down signage for foreign-food vendors near university

The China Post news staff

The China Post news staff–The writing was on the wall yesterday as medium-sized demolition vehicles struck down the signs, neon or otherwise, of the “exotic” eateries lining a side street a stone’s throw from the main campus of National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) in Taipei. Buzzing chainsaws finished off whatever was left of the signs as owners of the eateries looked on. They knew the days of their “joints” were numbered. The confluence of numerous gastronomical traditions — Korean, Indian, Malaysian, Thai, Tibetan, and so on — will be gone soon.

Lane 13, Pucheng Street in downtown Taipei has long a scene of boisterous din, especially after dark. As such, the eateries there have always been the butt of the complaints by people who called the place home.

Shortly before the turn of the year, the city government, at the request of long-suffering local residents who organized themselves into a “self-relief association,” divined the future of the eateries.

The signs are the first to go, and the evictions of the businesses cannot be ruled out, the owners of the eateries were told.

“I felt an abruptness. We have been trying to comply with city requirements. But all of a sudden, everything here will be gone and the place will become a ‘ground zero.’” “It’s not fair. There are other places in the country like this. We have been around for more than a dozen years, and yet we never knew the place is off-limits to businesses,” Lin Wenchung (林文忠), director general of the Association for the Development of National Normal University Shopping Area, lamented yesterday. According to a city ordinance, restaurants are not allowed within a radius of 8 meters from residential buildings.

“There are probably more than 10,000 restaurants located within a radius of 8 meters from residential buildings in the city,” a restaurateur, who spoke on condition of anonymity, complained.

But local residents were happy. “According to a newspaper survey, the lane sees an influx of up to 40,000 people each night, who parade in front of our doorsteps. We are smoke cured upstairs on a daily basis. Aren’t we supposed to be promoting good neighborliness?” Liu Chen-wei (劉振偉), president of the local residents’ self-relief association, said yesterday.