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May 28, 2010

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Officials remove cafe patio roof on heels of lawsuit

PATRONS to the Boonna Cafe, a popular outdoor cafe among expats, might be surprised to find the patio shelter in the front has disappeared.

It certainly surprised Andy Best.

The blogger happened to witness the front structure being torn down on Wednesday morning.

As a post on the Shangaiist blog put it later on Wednesday, the cafe's "patio has been ripped to shreds and is officially no more," because of "an overzealous landlord."

Best, who had gone there to have breakfast, said "a raiding party" of police and workers turned up by surprise and smashed up the patio without talking to Boonna about it.

The Shanghaiist post by Elaine Chow received much attention. By evening, it had 1,530 page views.

But a Shanghai Daily investigation found a different story.

The cafe, sitting on the ground floor of a two-story building in a residential community on downtown Huaihai Road, had got into a civil lawsuit with property owners living upstairs.

"Neighbors upstairs said that the sunshade infects their life," said a waitress in the cafe.

The plaintiff sued the cafe owner for unauthorized construction in the front yard, referring to the wooden floor and sun shades.

The court supported the plaintiff's claim, saying the front patio was a public place meant to be shared by residents of the two-story building.

Xuhui District Court officials said they had asked the cafe to restore the original appearance of the pubic yard, but the cafe failed to do so by the deadline.

So the court had to send out officers to enforce the court verdict, and removed the patio and shades by force on Wednesday.

Yet, to patrons' relief, the patio was still in business yesterday, despite the loss of the sun screen. All 10 round tables in the yard were occupied around noon.

Tree leaves offered a natural shade for the customers, while some tables were exposed in the sun.

"I enjoy having a cup of coffee outdoors on such a sunny day," said Mat, a customer from the Netherlands.

"I may also be unhappy with the business in the communal space, if I lived upstairs," Mat said after learning of the situation.


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