Across China: Boat restaurants leave the Yangtze for new ventures on land
CHONGQING, July 12 (Xinhua) -- To move onto land or not? This is the question that has troubled boat restaurant owner Yang Qingfu for years.
Yang's restaurant, located on a barge in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River, China's longest, in southwest Chongqing Municipality, has been running for a decade.
Yang recently signed a deal with the local government to close his business on the river and start a new one on land.
"I have thought about moving the restaurant onto land for some time," Yang said, adding that he was unsure if the restaurant would be as profitable.
Boat restaurants were once popular destinations for both locals and tourists alike in Chongqing. Diners can eat fresh fish caught in the river while enjoying the view.
Yang, 51, a Chongqing local, worked with his father, a fisherman, since his teenage years. A decade ago, he realized the catering industry on the river was booming and decided to open his own restaurant.
Yang bought a barge for 50,000 yuan (about 7,500 U.S. dollars) and turned it into a boat restaurant where he served fish he caught in the river.
The business grew in the first few years, and Yang spent another 300,000 yuan to expand his restaurant, adding a second floor which allowed him to cater for more than 100 guests.
Eyeing high profits, more people opened boat restaurants on the river.
Increased fishing led to a dwindling wild fish population, and sometimes Yang had to serve non-local fish bought from the markets. With lower quality, Yang's business suffered.
More than once he thought about moving his business onto land. "The boat rocks greatly on windy days, so we were also worried about safety," Yang said.
Pollution was another concern. "Most boats did not have sewage treatment equipment, and tonnes of sewage was poured directly into the river," Yang said.
In 2016, China launched a campaign to protect the environment and avoid overexploitation of the Yangtze river.
Chongqing government has been offering incentives and persuading boat restaurant owners to move their businesses onto land.
Yang received a subsidy of 250,000 yuan and business advice from the government for his new venture.
So far, 39 boat restaurant owners have signed deals with the municipal government.
"We need clean water just as fish do," Yang said, "No one can survive if all the water becomes polluted."