HomeChinese AmericanChinatown restaurants face the question: to reopen or not?

Chinatown restaurants face the question: to reopen or not?

Photos and additional reporting by Shirley Ng, AsAmNews staff writer,

Asian American small business owners looking to reopen face the added pressure and burden of attacks and discrimination, reports the Washington Post.

Business at Mei Chau’s restaurant in New York City began dropping as much as 20 percent in late January. She said people, including Asian families, feared going to Manhattan Chinatown, as they watched the coronavirus spread in China.

Patrick Mock, manager of the 46 Mott market in New York City and pictured above, has been preparing hot grab and go meals for the community in Chinatown during the COVID-19 crisis.

Mostly seniors line up well before he distributes at noon. The line stretches two streets. The box meal of Chinese comfort food includes a refreshing cool sweet drink called, “ha goo cho.” He has been relying on donations to support his cause.

Patrons line up at 46 Mott Market in New York City

The choice to reopen is not an easy one says Eric Sansangasakun, who owns Thai and sushi restaurant Gindi Thai in Burbank, CA.

“If I could choose, I would just stay at home. That’s the safest place that reduces the risk of getting the virus,” he said to The Eater. “But I have to strike a balance between safety and the practicality of having to run the business. You can stay home for two months, and then after that, there’s no business to go back to.”

The Post reports Asian businesses have been hurting longer and the community’s unemployment rate has been skyrocketing. The GOP strategy of blaming China for the pandemic, only adds to that pressure, say some. The inability of some to distinguish between China and Asian Americans living in the United States compounds that pressure.

“Across the nation … there is this rise of this blame game,” said Wellington Chen, who heads the non-profit Chinatown Partnership in New York City. “This is this legacy moment. … What did you guys do? Did you beat up on your neighbors? Is that what you’re proud of?” he told the Post.

“Just because we’re Chinatown, we’re not China,” said Mary Gibson, the owner of Happy World Market in Honolulu said to the Star Advertiser. “They (shoppers) shouldn’t be concerned as long as they wear a mask.”

Sansangasakun has seen his revenue drop 70 percent in the last month. Despite the difficulties, he’s determined to emerge stronger than ever.

“We are fighters,” he told The Eater. “As a group of immigrants that came here 20 years ago, when we started the business, everything was harder for immigrants to do: to navigate the bureaucracy, to get started in a new country,” he says. “We’ll continue to fight this. Whatever comes out, we will come out not regretting the decisions that we have made.”

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