Uneven Ground: Is there a CB3 Double Standard Regarding Chinatown Restaurants? [OP-ED]

Posted on: August 17th, 2017 at 8:29 am by

The following opinion piece was written by Chinatown activist, and Community Board 3 member Karlin Chan.

As a member of Community Board 3, but primarily as a Chinatown resident, activist, and advocate, I cannot keep silent any further.

It is disturbing to see CB3 apply different sets of rules when it comes to the SLA subcommittee’s handling of new applications. During last month’s meeting, I was in attendance to oppose the application of MJK Foods (License #1301890), and had argued that it would be irresponsible and reckless to approve a full liquor license (aka “OP”) to operators without experience in the nightlife business. But my argument fell on deaf ears (intentional?) and the application was approved.

I was merely using an argument the committee itself had previously used to deny an application.

During the Sept 2015 SLA committee meeting a full service Chinese restaurant Hwa Yuan 42-44 East Broadway applied for an OP license but was rebuffed by committee members because the owner had lacked “experience.” The committee instead “floated” a wine-beer arrangement which the applicant had no choice but to accept. So, why was the Hwa Yuan restaurant subjected to a different set of rules? Why was CB3’s SLA committee even considering criteria that the State Liquor Authority doesn’t?

Residents opposing MJK Foods on Mulberry St.

Yet, MJK was approved. None of their principals have experience, either. Max Levai from Happy Ending wasn’t on those liquor licenses. Is there a double standard when it comes to Chinese applicants? Are they subject to a different set of rules and scrutiny?

East Broadway was once teeming with Chinese businesses as far down as Clinton Street, yet in recent years, gentrification has pushed them back to Pike Street. Many of these mom-and-pops struggle to survive month-to-month. Hwa Yuan is a beautifully designed tri-level restaurant serving traditional Chinese specialties, and should stay competitive. It could serve to revitalize the dining scene on this block of Chinatown to draw visitors and diners to the area. But there is no OP. (It also marks Hwa Yuan’s return after the original location – just two doors away – closed in the late 1980s.) The area new hotels draw international business people, and we need places that would attract them to dine, hold business meetings and stay in neighborhood.

One would think the local community board would have the area’s economic health in mind; however, this example shows otherwise.

Are there special interests involved here?

Recent Stories

Michael Shah Spent $19M on this Hell Square Tenement Building

On Wednesday, we reported that Michael Shah (Delshah Capital) picked up the Hell Square tenement at 138 Ludlow Street. With the transaction now public, it appears the controversial landlord paid $19 million for the property. Spending that kind of coin on a pre-war walkup means one thing. The requisite upscaling to luxury living. “Despite its […]

Brooklyn Diamond Coffee Fades from Lafayette Street

It’s no longer proverbial diamond in the rough (of Lafayette Street). Brooklyn Diamond, the upstart coffee shop, shuttered its SoHo java joint earlier this month. Brown butcher paper now hangs in the windows of 234 Lafayette, capping a brief tenure that barely lasted eight months. The original Brooklyn location also appears to be kaput. Both […]

Bowery Landlord Must Fix Unstable Staircase within 2 Weeks, City Says

Controversial landlord Joseph Betesh must fix the destabilized staircase inside 85 Bowery within two weeks, the city stated yesterday after dozens of tenants were evacuated from their homes. As part of the ongoing legal case between Betesh and the tenant association here, the State Supreme Court yesterday afternoon ordered a city inspection of the property. Apparently, the […]

Boss Tweed’s Saloon Won’t be Returning to Essex Street

Today in news that won’t surprise, we can report that Boss Tweed’s Saloon will not be returning to Essex Street. The City Marshals came to the long-shuttered nightclub and seized the space on behalf of the landlord. Boss Tweed’s barely survived its reboot, having spent five months in the wild before a 20-year-old Jersey girl […]

Breaking: DOB Evacuates Embattled Betesh Tenants from 85 Bowery

Down on the Bowery, total pandemonium right now as the authorities just evacuated the embattled tenants of 85 Bowery. Apparently the primary staircase is destabilized due to purported neglect, and a vacate order subsequently issued. This sudden liquidation follows a month after the state Department of Homes and Community Renewal (DHCR) determined that apartments in […]