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Starbucks, New World Saigon Hotel latest offenders in ongoing ‘sidewalk clearing’ battle

Thursday, March 23, 2017, 10:52 GMT+7
Starbucks, New World Saigon Hotel latest offenders in ongoing ‘sidewalk clearing’ battle
An excavator removes the concrete flower boxes in front of a Starbucks store in Ho Chi Minh City on March 22, 2017.

A five-star hotel in downtown Ho Chi Minh City and its next-door Starbucks outlet had their concrete steps and flower and ornamental tree boxes destroyed for blocking the pavement in Wednesday’s latest ‘sidewalk reclamation’ crackdown.

District 1 deputy chairman Doan Ngoc Hai, leader of the campaign, led his team to New World Saigon Hotel, a five-star hotel fronting three streets just 500m away from Ben Thanh Market, to check whether or not the 11-step stairway in front of the venue had been removed as previously requested.

The team had demanded on Tuesday that New World Saigon Hotel demolish the structure and clear the walkway for pedestrians.

When Hai’s team arrived, the steps had not been completely removed and the demolition team was ordered to do the job, with the hotel footing the bill.

[Doan Ngoc Hai – deputy chairman of the People’s Committee of District 1, Ho Chi Minh City

I don’t agree with you. You’ve earned tens of millions of dollars for the past few decades from illegally expanded structures.

I used to run businesses, so I’m speaking from experience.

No more arguments. I have to do my work. I will not stop.

Doan Ngoc Hai

If New World had complied with regulations, they would have removed the illegal structures during the past two months. My statements have been very clear.

Your structures take up a lot of sidewalk space in association with dozens of those shops.

Over the past few decades you have made tens of millions of dollars.

Mr. Duc from your company agreed in this document that he would voluntarily remove the illegal structures.

If the structures are legal, why do you think you have to agree to their removal? Do you really have sufficient authorization to deal with this case?

Representative of New World Saigon Hotel

The problem is that there is an oil tank underneath the structure so we’d like to do it ourselves.

Doan Ngoc Hai

We will remove just the upper structure. I’ll give you a deadline to remove the rest.

Representative of New World Saigon Hotel

The structure is right on an oil tank, so we need to be careful. We guarantee that we will do it. I’ll show you the lid of the oil tank right now.

Doan Ngoc Hai

Why do you keep making up excuses? Now, with the oil pipe…

Representative of New World Saigon Hotel

I have explained to you very clearly. If you want the structure to be removed, let’s us do it to ensure safety.

Doan Ngoc Hai

You have a look at this “Voluntary removal”…

Representative of New World Saigon Hotel

We spent over US$2 million helping renovate this run-down area with all the kiosks in the past. Our company has no intention of taking up public space and causing monetary losses to the city.

Doan Ngoc Hai

You can’t say that. If the steps had been built properly, you would have less space and thus the renting fee would be significantly lower. For example, instead of earning US$10,000 per month, you’d be earning US$6,000 per month. If you multiply that by 20 years, then you see.

Representative of New World Saigon Hotel

But we also pay taxes to the government from our profit…

Doan Ngoc Hai

You can’t say that. Don’t mix up different things. You need to focus on the public benefits of over 13 million people in this city, not of New World. Let me show you the road limit line.

Representative of New World Saigon Hotel

Why don’t you show him the building blueprint with approval from the Department of Construction?

Another representative of New World Saigon Hotel

I did show him.

Doan Ngoc Hai

I have checked the legality of your document. You don’t understand the issue. I have wasted so much time explaining everything to you. Your hotel literally takes up a huge amount of public space at this corner.]

A representative for the New World Saigon Hotel arrived on site and pledged that the hotel would do the removal work on its own, warning that the oil tank located beneath the concrete steps could endanger those involved in the removal process.

The plea fell on deaf ears, with Hai insisting the steps be immediately removed and agreeing that his team would only clear the surface part of the structure. 

A deadline was given for the hotel to handle the underground part of the project.

New Work Saigon Hotel, facing Nguyen Thi Nghia, Le Lai and Pham Hong Thai Streets, is one of the most highly-regarded luxury hotels in Ho Chi Minh City.

The establishment is known for having accommodated three U.S. presidents – George W. H. Bush in 1995, Bill Clinton in 2000, and George W. Bush in 2006.

Next door, the ‘sidewalk clearing’ team found that the concrete flower and ornamental tree boxes in front of a Starbucks store were built beyond the hotel’s zoned space and had to be removed.

Located on Le Lai Street, the offending outlet was the first Starbucks location in Vietnam when it opened in 2013.

YpdEbSZI.jpgThe flower and ornamental tree boxes in front of the Starbucks outlet after the removal is seen in this photo shared on Facebook.

As part of Wednesday’s crackdown, Hai's team also removed several steps blocking the sidewalk in front of the Ho Chi Minh City Play Theater on Tran Hung Dao Street and ticketed a few illegally parked cars on Hai Trieu Street.

One of the cars was ready to be towed when the owner showed up. Hai agreed to let the owner take the car only after issuing a ticket.

Workers remove the steps in front of the Ho Chi Minh City Play Theater.

A car is being towed away before its owner shows up in the last minutes.

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