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

Recent Stories

Eighteen Groups Sign Open Letter Demanding Transparency over CB3 Removal of Committee Chairs

Eighteen community groups within Community Board 3 on the Lower East Side this week co-signed an open letter to city and state officials urging inquiry into the removal of Alexandra Militano and Carolyn Ratcliffe as chairs of the SLA and Arts & Culture subcommittees, respectively. The shakeup, apparently inspired by a stated “new direction” for […]

East Broadway Subway Tiles Free of Disgusting Deposits

Down in the bowels of the East Broadway subway station, those hideous wall monsters are now a thing of the past. For years, the tunnel tiling devolved into a complete mess. Conditions were ripe for the formation of brown, slug-like deposits that grew ever larger by the week. Until this month, coincidentally the 85th anniversary […]

Chinatown Welcomes New Easy Access COVID-19 Testing Sites

Finally a step in the right direction. Pop-up COVID-19 test sites opened in Chinatown yesterday, providing much-needed alternatives to locals seeking a swab. The sites – one at 62 Mott Street, and the other at Confucius Plaza – offer walk-in swab tests and antibodies tests. Center Laboratories is handling testing and results, which are emailed or texted […]

New Year, Wrong Stamp for USPS Commemorative Postage [OP-ED]

With the Lunar New Year fast approaching, the U.S. Postal Service released its annual commemorative stamp to honor the holiday. Yet, the new postage seriously misses the mark, is wrong on many levels. The Lunar New Year – observed this year on February 12 – is celebrated by several Asian cultures, but it’s difficult to […]

Covid Killed ‘Wall of Sound’ Producer Phil Spector; Revisiting The Ronettes Outside Parisi Bakery

Phil Spector, the legendary “Wall of Sound” producer, music impresario, and convicted murderer, died on Saturday of purported complications from Covid-19 at the Health Care Facility in Stockton (California), after being transferred from prison. He was 81. Incarcerated for murdering Lana Clarkson in 2003, Spector would spend his final years behind bars. Which makes paying […]