Soon after iconic dim sum banquet hall Jing Fong closed for indoor dining on March 7, unionized restaurant workers banded together with community members and leaders to propose a plan to save the historic restaurant, Gothamist reports.
At a conference outside of the restaurant on Friday, organizers announced a plan to save the jobs of the roughly 100 employees who would be let go in the case of the restaurant’s permanent closure.
“Our community will stand together to make sure that institutions and landmarks will not be forgotten,” community leader Don Lee said, according to CBS New York. “It will be rebuilt. It will be better than it was because that is what is needed to recover from COVID.”
The plan entails restructuring ownership of the business by transforming Jing Fong from a single-ownership business to a collectively-owned business. This would mean that the Lam family, which has been operating Jing Fong for 43 years, would no longer be the sole proprietors of the restaurant.
This follows Mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio’s Employee Ownership NYC program launched in December of 2020, which provides services such as consultation, planning and training to businesses looking to transition to a collective ownership model.
“Enabling workers to buy their businesses is a proven model to address the wealth gap in this city – and it will be a transformative approach for businesses looking for creative ways to recover from the challenges posed by COVID-19,” de Blasio said.
If a collectively-owned Jing Fong were to be established, the restaurant still may not retain its renowned enormous banquet hall. The Lam family has already given up their lease for the space on 20 Elizabeth Street, which is now available for a new restaurant or business, according to Lee.
In fact, part of the reason Jing fong closed its indoor dining space was due to its inability to pay rent. A representative for Jonathan Chu, the landlord, told the Gothamist that the Lam family had been unable to pay rent since May 2020.
Many uncertainties surround the question of how much money will be required to implement and restore a collectively owned Jing Fong. Factors include how much funding the group will receive from the city.
While plans are not yet set in stone, employees and community organizers are determined to fight for Jing Fong. “We’re looking for a win-win-win,” Lee said to the Gothamist. “The workers save their jobs, New York City and the community has the anchor store and the landmark that Jing Fong is to continue to operate, and the landlord will get the rent.”
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