At the turn of the century the Duke of York was a great pub. Some regulars swore it was the best pub on the South China coast. The ownership changed and, mismanaged, the place went into decline. Now, taken over by Anna Chan and Alan Cheng, the DoY is undergoing a revival.
Anna and Alan are married with a 14-year-old daughter, Sky. Anna said they met at the Shangri-La when she was working as a wedding dress designer and Alan was employed there as an audio-visual technician. For a while they ran a Tuen Mun pub called the Sun Victory. The couple moved to Sai Kung to give Sky a better environment and Anna worked part-time supporting Ricky Hei who owned the Duke at the time. Ricky got married and turned the Duke of York over to Anna and Alan, who now own the business 100%.
They have repainted much of the interior, put up art — erotic in the washrooms — and added a food menu, long absent in the Duke. Alan, who manages to look like John Lennon, plays the best music in Sai Kung. Favourite artifacts part of the pub’s history remain: The Oriental Brewing & Bicycle Repair Company sign, Ulf’s mini-propellor (the Swede, a former private pilot, owned the Duke before Ricky for a few years before succumbing to depression and whisky) and the Central Police Station sign that points to the toilets. Nothing visual remains of the couple who ran the Duke so well around the turn of the century, Una and Mike Wilkinson. Una had inherited the pub from Sandy, her first husband said to have died in her arms of asthma. Later she married Mike, a rangy former British army soldier who ran an abseiling window-cleaning business. A likeable backslapper, Mike began to spend most of his time in the Duke, drinking whisky with Ulf, and died young. Una left for the U.S.
Anna and Alan, who live at Sha Kok Mei, are working seven days a week running the Duke with the help of Vicky Lau and Bobby Yip. Vicky Hamilton, who has moved her girls to Guernsey with her husband Rick, is much missed. The menu is heavy on English pies with some specialities such as Siu Ceon spare ribs and Siu Ceon chicken, which Anna recommends. Musicians perform every Saturday evening: Rikky Aranas on guitar and harmonica or Robbie and Wai Wai, guitarist and singer.
The pub’s revival by Anna and Alan, steadily improving it over three years, has led to rising sales as people realise the Duke really is back.