Sep 23, 2016
For most restaurant owners, receiving a Michelin star is a dream come true. But for Shanghai’s Taian Table, the dream was short-lived, as it was forced to close down just one day after after it was honored with the award.
Michelin on Wednesday announced it had for the first time given stars to 26 Shanghai restaurants, including Taian Table. On Thursday evening the establishment was besieged by authorities after months of complaints by nearby residents.
Staff from the local environmental protection authorities came to inspect the restaurant on Thursday evening but were refused entry, a 70-year-old witness surnamed Wang told Sixth Tone. After a one-hour stalemate, Wang called the police. When they showed up the restaurant finally agreed to open its doors, allowing diners to leave and inspectors to enter.
Yu Hailan, a 60-year-old retiree living on the floor above Taian Table, told Sixth Tone conflicts between the restaurant and the neighbors began when it opened in April. The restaurant is located in a residential neighborhood in a part of Shanghai known as the former French Concession. Taian Table had redecorated the first floor of an apartment block to give the restaurant a vaguely European veneer, but neighbors were anything but charmed by its proximity to their homes.
The neighborhood’s residents in May sent an appeal letter to several district and municipal departments listing problems such as noise and air pollution caused by the kitchen’s ventilators. They also pointed out that the restaurant didn’t have the proper business license. Dozens of residents signed the appeal.
Yu said the ground floor was modified four years ago, and that the restaurant’s large air conditioner and kitchen ventilator are just beneath her windows. “In the summer, the wall was scorching hot,” she said. “We couldn’t open the windows at all. And our own air conditioning was no use either. It must have been 50 degrees [Celsius] at home.”
Guo Xin, a 47-year-old resident on the third floor, showed Sixth Tone a video she shot of the overflowing sewage near the building’s entrance in June. She said her daughter had complained of ringing in her ears which Guo said was caused by the constant hum of the restaurant’s air conditioner and ventilators.
Residents living in nearby buildings also complained to Sixth Tone about safety problems, such as diners driving scooters in and out of the neighborhood late at night.
In a reply to the residents in May, the environmental protection office of Changning District said the restaurant had not passed an environment protection examination, and that it had already ordered the restaurant to stop cooking food because it caused oily fumes.
In a statement sent to Sixth Tone, the Changning District Market Supervision Administration said it inspected Taian Table in June after receiving complaints and found that it hadn’t obtained a food business license. The administration ordered the restaurant to cease operations.
The restaurant owner then promised that the property would only be used for internal catering. In July the administration sealed up the restaurant’s refrigerator, kitchenware, and other facilities after complaints about noise and fumes.
This month, residents submitted evidence of Taian Table’s continued operations to the administration. The restaurant promised again that it would stop serving the public. According to the statement, the restaurant owner had already found a new location and would move out by the end of November.
Residents expressed to Sixth Tone their disappointment that local authorities had neglected the issue for months. They also didn’t understand how an unlicensed restaurant could have received a Michelin star in the first place.
Yu said the neighborhood committee had suggested she ask the restaurant for compensation — an approach she refused. “I just want to live in my home peacefully,” she said.
An employee of the restaurant surnamed Yao told Sixth Tone, “Taian Table didn’t cause that much trouble, and the residents refused to negotiate.” Yao said the restaurant doesn’t have a landline for reopening and declined to provide contact information for managers or people in charge of business operations.
On Friday, a notice on the door of Taian Table said that it had suspended operations “due to internal reorganization.” The restaurant’s website no longer accepts reservations.
Correction: A previous version of this article said that Michelin stars had been awarded to 25 restaurants in Shanghai. The correct number is 26.
(Header image: A woman passes by the Taian Table restaurant in Shanghai, Sept. 23, 2016. VCG)