HomeChinese AmericanChinatowns across the nation recover slowly

Chinatowns across the nation recover slowly

Photo of Boston Chinatown via Flickr Creative Commons by Zozolka

Many Chinatowns suffered through temporary business closures and cancellations of Lunar New Year celebrations due to COVID-19. Now, as businesses across the countries reopen, many including Chicago’s Chinatown “remained cautious,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

The newspaper reports that less than 47% of Chicago’s Chinatown businesses now allow customers inside, but only 11 eateries have outdoor tables. Owners also expressed concerns about reopening their businesses at the risk of their family’s health as well as anti-Asian stigma.

“I’ve gotten so many prank calls,” Spencer Ng, the second-generation owner of Cantonese restaurant Triple Crown, told Chicago Tribune. “Really young kids calling and saying, ‘Hey are you guys serving that bat soup?’ If this is our future, then we’re in bad shape.”

The impact of gentrification remains a growing threat in the community. Development continues at a rapid pace while small businesses in Chinatown suffer. WBEZ reports the high end development, the 78, expanded the border of Downtown Chicago closer to Chinatown last year.

In Houston, unsubstantiated rumors and fear of contracting the novel coronavirus kept customers away from local businesses, Nickey Ngo, owner of Red Circle Ice Cream, told NBC.

“Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t about racism, it was because the Asian community wasn’t coming out to eat and shop because we were just scared,” Ngo said. “We just didn’t know what was going on.”

Ngo added that her business saw an “overwhelming support and love” from all racial demographics despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Chinatowns in New York and San Francisco are incentivizing customers to come back to businesses through community building and safety programs.

In New York, long-time Chinatown resident Karlin Chan has been opening the fire hydrants every Saturday to wash the streets after he hasn’t seen a sweeper in months, he told CBS Local. He rallied volunteers who showed up after seeing a call on social media, to sweep the streets with brooms he provided.

“Chinatown is coming back. We just want everybody to know that, and that we have curbside dining, open restaurants,” Chan told CBS Local. “I’d like everyone to come down and get your Chinese food fix.”

The neighborhood has also posted a video reminding locals that Chinatown in New York is open.

San Francisco’s Chinatown has also debuted its first “shared street,” where three blocks in the neighborhood will remain closed to automobiles to make space for outdoor dining and service, SF Weekly reports.

The initiative may be working despite skepticism. The owners of Dim Sum Corner told organizers they sold out of food in one afternoon.

Through this initiative called Chinatown Walkway Weekends, community leaders hope they can bring customers and revenue back to local businesses that have been struggling during the pandemic.

“The main goal of this is to help the restaurants. The restaurants are really hurting,” Harlan Wong, co-organizer of Chinatown Walkway Weekends told SF Weekly. “We want to make sure the restaurants can get all the real estate they can.” 

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