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December 9, 2010

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Locals still dine out to bring in Chinese New Year

PRICES may be soaring, but Shanghai residents are still determined to celebrate the Chinese New Year's Eve by dining out, with many restaurants fully booked.

Many establishments said all VIP rooms are taken for the celebration, which falls on February 2.

The Shanghai Restaurants Association said the dinner is expected to be 15 to 20 percent more expensive than in 2010, but that families still love to dine out to avoid the hassles of cooking. According to Chinese tradition, dinner on the Chinese New Year's Eve is the most important family get-together of the year.

Jade Garden, a popular restaurant chains in Shanghai, said on February 2 every VIP room will be used for two sittings. An official with the restaurant said people began booking in August and only a few seats in big halls are left.

Families used to dining out on Chinese New Year's Eve said they don't want to go back to the kitchen.

"Every year, about 20 people in our family have dinner together," said 51-year-old housewife Zhang Xiaocong. "But I'm getting older and preparing it is a lot of work."

Meanwhile, diners are concerned about how much they will have to pay for the meal, as some restaurants would only accept a deposit, saying they couldn't give the price until a week before the Spring Festival.

"I paid a 600 yuan (US$90) deposit for dinner for 12 people at the Meiyuancun Restaurant near our home in Zhabei District," said a resident surnamed Zhang. "But the restaurant wouldn't tell me what the dishes will be or how much I should pay."

Meiyuancun said it could not give a price due to the rising cost of raw materials.

The local consumers' watchdog said the practice was unfair as consumers were left shouldering the price risk. "We advise consumers not to choose restaurants that refuse to provide a firm price when taking the booking," said Tang Jiansheng, of the law department to the Shanghai Commission of Consumers' Rights and Interests Protection.


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