How the Coronavirus Brought Chinatown to its Knees [OP-ED]

Posted on: July 24th, 2020 at 5:05 am by

Photo: Karlin Chan

Dark days are on the horizon.

The initial tally of Chinatown restaurant closures the last few months isn’t pretty, with many local favorites falling victim to the Covid-19 lockdown.

The novel coronavirus started taking an early toll on Chinatown restaurants and other businesses back in December 2019 when news from overseas broke on the outbreak. Tourism to the neighborhood tanked, and even regular diners started avoiding the neighborhood.

Photo: Karlin Chan

By early March, many Chinatown restaurants suffered 45-60% drops in business, and many cut staff and hours to save resources. But the city’s mandatory lockdown forced 85% of area businesses to temporarily close.

While New York State had imposed a moratorium on evictions, which expires this month, there was no extensive plan in place to aid small businesses. Except the federal Payroll Protection Program and other grant programs that were not effectively disseminated to the Chinatown community.

Photo: Karlin Chan

Many restaurateurs found themselves deep in debt and scrambling to meet rent payments. There were landlords willing to offer discounts, but many were not as accommodating.

Unlike Mott Street north of Canal, where locals shop, the more tourist-dependent Chinatown businesses south of Canal will likely remain dismal for months to come. While many restaurants have reopened and are starting to take advantage of the “curbside dining” allowed in phase 3 with a couple of tables outside it simply does not come near the revenue pre-pandemic where many were just getting by.

Photo: Karlin Chan

Faced with this new reality, several longtime neighborhood fixtures have thrown in the towel. Included in the short list here are some of my own personal favorites for homestyle comfort foods:

  • Amazing 66
  • Mandarin Court
  • Chatham Seafood
  • 69 Bayard WK Restaurant
  • Hop Shing
  • 28 Delight
  • PhoBar
  • Hua Ji Pork Chip Fast Food

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