HomeChinese AmericanHistoric restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown could close

Historic restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown could close

Sam Wo Restaurant, a 117-year-old staple in San Francisco’s Chinatown, could close if new owners aren’t found.

According to The San Francisco Standard, one of the restaurant’s co-owners David Jitong Ho is ready to retire. Ho, 68, has been with Sam Wo Restaurant for 42 years and the decades have taken its toll.

“If I tell you I can continue to work, I am lying to you,” Ho told The Standard in Cantonese. 

Ho’s co-owner Steven Lee told The San Francisco Chronicle that if a new owner is not found by the time the lease expires in January 2025 the restaurant will have to close.

“We’re not giving up yet, but it’s a struggle to find the right replacement,” Lee told the Chronicle.

Lee said investors put a lot of effort into restarting the restaurant but are not involved in the day-to-day operations, The Standard reports. A young family needs to be willing to take on the business before investors can sign a new lease with Yin Ping Association, a small, family-owned company that owns the building.

Sam Wo opened in 1906 after a massive earthquake in San Francisco. Over the years it has become known for its affordable Cantonese food. According to the Standard, the restaurant was featured in a Conan O’Brien sketch because it was home to the world’s rudest waiter Edsel Fong.

The restaurant has also had its fair share of notable customers. Rep. Adam Schiff recently told Lee that he ate at the restaurant frequently when he was a college student in the Bay Area, The Chronicle reports.

Many Bay Area residents will be sad if the restaurant closes. Ho sees the potential closure as just a part of life.

“This is life, and we have to deal with it,” he told The Standard. “Do whatever you want when you are young.”

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