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Graceland, the mansion-museum where Elvis Presley lived for 20 years, is facing financial troubles after the pandemic. The estate has welcomed over 20 million fans since it began its second life as a museum, giving a glimpse into the life of the musical legend. However, post-COVID, revenue has reduced, and it has defaulted on its bonds. It may not be a death sentence for the famous tourist attraction—travel has picked up considerably this year, and the new movie Elvis is generating new interest in the King—but it’s a sign of the times.
Many other tourist spots and iconic businesses have not been as lucky. After the pandemic shut down travel, businesses dependent on the tourist dollar fell like dominoes, and for many, there was no recovering from it.
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WHERE: Hong Kong
Jumbo Kingdom was an iconic floating restaurant that had served Cantonese specialties since it opened in 1976. The three-level ship was designed as an imperial palace, and it welcomed royalty like Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip and a host of celebrities, including Tom Cruise. It was a big financial strain to maintain this restaurant after the pandemic, and without private investors or a government bailout, it couldn’t be saved.
In June, after being closed since 2020, it was towed away from the harbor with locals bidding adieu to the eatery in the city’s waters. Sadly, a few days later, the ship sank in the South China Sea on the way to a shipyard.
Located in Paris’ Latin Quarter, the flagship store of bookstore chain Gibert Jeune closed its shutters last year in March. The historic store had seen students, booklovers, and tourists walk through its threshold for five decades before the pandemic rang the last bell. Locals can still find books at its first store opposite Notre Dame and other locations across France even though the landmark with yellow awnings on Place Saint Michel is gone.
Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant
Singapore’s well-known revolving restaurant closed after 43 years of serving patrons Beijing cuisine. It offered beautiful views of Sentosa, the Singapore Cable Car, and Mount Faber to diners as it took one revolution an hour. It stopped spinning after COVID-19 hit, and with the F&B industry in shambles, it couldn’t be revived.
City Tavern Restaurant
A colonial-themed restaurant, City Tavern was located in Philly’s Old City, where a 1773 tavern once stood. The building was a replica of the original that burnt down in 1834, and for the last 26 years, it was run by Chef Walter Staib. Dressed in 18th-century costumes, waiters brought dishes such as West Indies Pepperpot soup and Colonial Turkey Pie for tourists who wanted an 18th-century dining experience. But the pandemic closed the restaurant temporarily and then for good in 2020. The National Parks Service maintains the building.
WHERE: San Francisco
The Cliff House was first built in 1863 after the Gold Rush. In its 157 years of history, it was destroyed by fires twice—in 1894 and 1907, though it survived the 1906 earthquake. With incredible views of the Pacific Coast, this clifftop restaurant went through changes over the years and became a fixture in the hearts of locals. From a place for the wealthy to a local gem and tourist attraction, it has lived many lives, and maybe another chapter is possible in a few years.
Why did it shut shop? Proprietors Dan and Mary Hountalas said in a statement on the website that they have run operations for 47-and-a-half years, but they haven’t been able to negotiate a contract with the National Parks Service since 2018. The pandemic was the last straw, and they had to say goodbye.
The Roosevelt Hotel
WHERE: New York
December 18, 2020, was the last day of operation for Manhattan’s glitzy Roosevelt Hotel. After nearly a century, the hotel—owned by Pakistan International Airlines—announced that the pandemic was a big blow to business, and it was closing due to low demand.
It was a historic site. Dedicated to President Theodore Roosevelt, the hotel lived through World War II. Guy Lombardo and his orchestra played at the hotel for 30 years, and are credited with the New Year’s Eve tradition of singing Auld Lang Syne after their broadcast. This is also where Thomas Dewey conceded the presidential election to Harry Truman in 1948 (though newspapers famously announced “Dewey Defeats Truman”). The hotel is also featured in many movies such as Maid in Manhattan, The Irishman, and Wall Street.