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November 26, 2011

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Villas store staff lie low after raids

USUALLY bustling, the lanes around Jing'an Villas were almost empty yesterday lunchtime, following a visit from law enforcement teams the previous day.

Most of the 85 unlicensed shops and restaurants there chose to remain closed, or secretly opened behind closed doors for regulars.

However, some shop owners said they may quit altogether as a result of rising rents and the renewed clampdown.

Law enforcement teams said yesterday they are wielding an "iron fist" against the illegal businesses in Jing'an District, promising to shut them down.

The clampdown began on Thursday with a raid on a popular milk tea shop.

Officials said the development of Jing'an Villas would not follow the pattern of Tianzifang, an arts and crafts and restaurant enclave in a warren of lanes at Taikang Road in Xuhui District.

Instead, the picturesque area would remain residential, they insisted.

"The famous residential complex has its own traditional charm which we should protect from the invasion of business," said Tang Hong, vice director of a street neighborhood office at a meeting on the planned crackdown.

But the owners of the shops, cafes, restaurants and galleries, who have built up thriving businesses in the 79-year-old villas, are not easily daunted.

Eatery owner Hou Jiyong said he had shut down his business while the crackdown was ongoing but would reopen.

Hou started his business to save for his wedding and it was facing his fiancee, not government officials, that concerned him most.

"For every day's business I lose, it means I have to delay my wedding by a day too," he explained.

However, Shanghai Daily discovered some owners of illegal businesses have decided to quit, citing rising rents and disruption from raids.

One cafe owner, surnamed Shin, said most cafe owners are lured into the business by dreams of earning a fortune.

But it seems only the landlords benefit, claimed Shin.

Other traders questioned what good it would do to shut down their businesses as landlords would then simply rent the apartments to other vendors, starting another round of hide and seek.


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