The Aviator is Tung Chung’s newest pub, and the one that seemed to have the most potential. It’s in a good location under the Mei Tung Street half of Tung Chung Crescent, it’s spacious, and it’s licensed to open until 1am – a luxury, given that Starz Bar (previously the only watering hole within easy reach of the Crescent) starts stacking its tables before 10pm.
At the outset, many locals (myself included) were strongly supportive of The Aviator, voting in favour of their license in the face of opposition from the residents of Block 5, who were objecting on the grounds that drunken gweilos would leer at passers-by, and the vomit from the toilets would exceed the capacity of the estate’s sewers (I kid you not). When the pub finally opened, even before the license arrived, we piled in with cans of beer from 7-Eleven and tried out the restaurant. And later we drank their beer too.
Unfortunately, it’s all been downhill from there. The Aviator’s serving staff are (with a few valuable exceptions) unappealing jobsworths, hopelessly disorganised, and a couple even give the impression of being less than honest with the bills. Some examples:
- I was in a party of six adults, in the pub for a World Cup match. With us we had the two year old son of one of the couples present. We had a table near the big screen, we’d all had meals, and we were clearly settling in for a long, long drinking session probably involving barsnacks. The little boy had a bottle of a fizzy sports drink from 7-Eleven. One of the waitresses saw him drinking from it, approached the table, addressed him directly, “I’m sorry honey, you can’t drink that in here”, and without further ado or even acknowledging his parents, she took the bottle from him. Cue screams, tears, and said child’s mother taking the waitress to pieces in the middle of the pub. And it was all pointless: they didn’t sell anything the kid would drink, so they weren’t losing any revenue from his fizzy drink.
- The same waitress, later on, accepted a credit card payment from one member of the party and then failed to return his card. She wasn’t terribly interested in going to fetch it, and then made a huge show – for about ten minutes – of searching high and low for it. Eventually it made it back to the table, but by that time the risk that it had been cloned was too high and he felt it sensible to cancel it and incur the costs of replacement.
- A pleasant muslim couple of my acquaintance went to The Aviator for some non-alcoholic beverages. They were told to seat themselves anywhere they wished, and since it was after food-service hours, that seemed like a reasonable idea. The serving girl subsequently informed them that the table they had chosen had a mandatory minimum order of $100 a head. Easy enough if you’re drinking beer, but something of a challenge if you’re on cokes and mineral water. Another example of mindlessly following rules and pissing off the customers.
- On many occasions, the bill has contained drinks that we did not order. Sometimes it’s obvious (e.g. a pint of Guinness charged to a table that had drunk nothing but Stella all evening). I wonder how many times they’ve slipped an extra Stella onto that bill without us noticing. In a crowded establishment this may be forgiven, but on a quiet night in a suburban sit-down bar it begins to look suspicious.
- The food service is amazingly disorganised. I’ve heard more than one person say they’ve waited so long for their meal that they’ve seen other diners arrive, order, eat and depart before their own food arrived. I’ve ordered side-dishes that haven’t arrived; rather than waiting for them I’ve asked for them to be removed from the bill, but they’re usually still there when it is time to settle up.
- The sports corner is laid out in such a way that it’s impossible to play darts without spearing a pool player in the head.
I’d love The Aviator to be a good neighbourhood pub. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a mechanism to provide customer feedback. Often there isn’t even anyone there to complain to when things go wrong. On the night of the fizzy-drink-stealing waitress, when we summoned the manager, she informed us that she was in charge. That was a bad omen, right there.
We’ve returned to patronising Starz Bar. It might close early but the staff are delightful, they’ve got a good range of European beers, and the service is impeccable. As long as they keep that up, they’re in no commercial danger from The Aviator.