Chinatown's pandemic crisis continues

Chinatown began seeing coronavirus pandemic-related losses as early as mid-January. And 10 months later, things haven't gotten much better.

"We had roughly 300 restaurants during last summer's survey," Wellington Chen, the executive director of the Chinatown Business Improvement District, told FOX 5 NY. "During the height of the pandemic, which was in late March, only 29 of them stayed open." 

Two Chinatown businesses that closed down during the height of the coronavirus pandemic said that business hasn't been the same since they reopened.

Jason Liu said that business at his frozen dessert joint, Soft Swerve, came to a halt back in March.

"Business did pick up during the summer because we're a seasonal business but sales are still down quite a bit," he said. "We're down about 60% from where we were last year."

Iconic eateries like Jing Fong also fell victim to COVID-19.

The restaurant reopened in June for delivery only, then phased in outdoor dining and indoor dining on the weekends.

Third-generation owner Truman Lam estimated that the restaurant is only at about 20% pre-COVID revenue.

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"We're trying to reach out to more delivery customers either by extending the radius, picking up new platforms or even selling food in different forms," Lam said.

At the beginning of the pandemic, only about 3.4% of Asian Americans in New York City were unemployed but by May that number rose above 25%, according to the Asian American Federation.

Grassroots organizations like Welcome to Chinatown have raised more than $400,000 to help with recovery efforts and hosted a self-guided tour to bring foot traffic back to the neighborhood.

"We're keeping all COVID requirements in mind. People are given six to seven locations to walk around and enjoy Chinatown," Welcome to Chinatown co-founder Victoria Lee said. "They get samples from different businesses."