If it weren’t for the quick-thinking staff at Hong Kong Lounge II, a Bib Gourmand–winning dim sum restaurant on Geary Boulevard, February 6, 2019 could have gone very badly. That’s the day that crews working at the intersection of Geary and Parker Avenue hit a gas line, prompting an explosion and hours-long fire that damaged five buildings in the area, including the dining destination.
The gas exploded at around 1:18 p.m., prime time for Hong Kong Lounge’s lunch crowd. A diner at the busy restaurant told ABC 7 that “We heard a rushing noise, like a tornado, it must have been the gas line leak. That lasted for about 15 seconds and we were all just looking at each other and didn’t know what to do” then “the whole window was lit up bright orange .... Immediately there were flames against the windows.”
#020629WF2 UPDATE 3ed Alarm Gas explosion (construction crew) 4 buildings involved 5 workers in accounted for evacuations 1 Block circumference (police and fire will knock at your door) media update by chief of Department at 1410 hrs at cook and Geary (media staging) pic.twitter.com/OZ3PyepFSN— SAN FRANCISCO FIRE DEPARTMENT MEDIA (@SFFDPIO) February 6, 2019
There were about 50 people inside Hong Kong Lounge II when the flames erupted, the Chron reported at the time, but though the blaze took out the entire front of the restaurant, no one was injured. That’s because, diners say, the restaurant’s owner and two of its waiters quickly hustled patrons to the back of the restaurant, out of reach of the flames. According to Kristy Chan, who was eating at Hong Kong that day, one waiter even “stayed behind until every patron had safely crowded into the back of the kitchen.”
A year later, Hong Kong’s long lines are still gone, and the burned building is boarded up and vacant. Its landlord, who spoke with the Chron last year, said then that the building “won’t be easy to remodel,” and from the outside, at least, no progress has been made.
A GoFundMe set up for Hong Kong Lounge staffers, who were likely counting on the income generated during 2019’s Lunar New Year, raised $6,400 for the restaurant’s employees, all of whom have reportedly moved on. It’s also unclear if Hong Kong Lounge was able to take advantage of disaster relief funds that the city typically offers for situations like these.
Its ongoing — and, perhaps, permanent closure is a disappointment to the restaurant’s many fans, as its har gow, pork buns, and pea shoots were known as some of the city’s best. “It’s really sad,” area resident Telmo Faria, who also owns Uma Casa and witnessed the explosion from nearby Mel’s Diner, told Eater SF. “We love Hong Kong Lounge II. As we were leaving, I could see the front starting to catch fire. I know the family and the people that work there.” Efforts to reach Annie Ho, Hong Kong Lounge II’s owner, to see if reopening plans are in the works, were unsuccessful as of publication time.