One Year of Loss, Heartache, Emerging Eviction – and Protecting Yourself – for Chinatown

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“There’s no way to do this kind of business,” said Mandarin, adding that both she and her husband, in their 60s, work in 12-hour shifts every day because they can’t afford more employees Can. “The reality is that to survive in the long term, we need at least four months rent relief.”

Don Lee, a longtime community activist who runs a senior center, said most shops would close if city tenants refused to give rent relief and waived property taxes for landlords. Neither idea has been taken seriously by Mayor Bill de Blasio or local authorities.

Leena said that Chinatown merchants and workers are “bound to unique language and cultural needs, being tied to geography.”

“It’s not like they can start again in another neighborhood,” he said.

At the same time, young Asian Americans have stepped in to help save many of these businesses. Some 200 volunteers in their 20s run Send Chinatown Love, a nonprofit that creates websites for restaurants and organizes food crawls to bring foot traffic back.

Others, such as Jefferson Lee, are stalling their careers to preserve their parents’ heritage. For three and a half decades, his family butcher shop, 47 Division Street Trading Inc., has been selling meats at discounted rates to both chefs and seniors on food stamps. Shutting down is not an option, he said, because it would trigger a chain reaction in the entire neighborhood. So he is setting up 14-hour work days at the store, taking orders, making deliveries and using social media to woo young, non-Asian customers.

“If we stop, what will happen to the regular people who trust us?” he said. “What will happen to an aunt making $ 14,000 a year after rent and now have to pay an extra $ 1 for a pound of meat?”

Last year, I-Miun Liu created three bustling ventures at the Chinatown-International District in Seattle. But the financial stress of the lockdown led him to indefinitely close his coffee shop, Eastern Cafe, and permanently close his cocktail bar, Lineage Room. Only his bubble tea chain, Oasis Tea Zone, remains.

Now, even as restrictions on restaurants have eased, people’s desire to eat outside has not returned to pre-epidemic levels, Liu said. This puts their establishments at a disadvantage, as they were designed to serve memorable meals to guests and were not easily translated to take service.

It is not just the volatile economy that affects small enterprises. Local protests over George Floyd’s police assassination spread to the International District over the summer, causing widespread property damage in dozens of Asian-owned shops. Compared to most other major cities, protests in Seattle have led to protracted and more violent clashes between police and protesters, leaving shop owners like Liu worried about the future.

Several traders shared the sentiment, said Mako Winkler-Chin, executive director of the nonprofit Seattle Chinatown International District Conservation and Development Authority, which works with half of the neighborhood’s 425 small businesses.

“There’s a lot of worry right now,” she said, five months after Floyd’s death, many owners still haven’t unboarded their windows, and can’t do so until early next year, given the possibility of unrest after the election Seeing it. “We’re still thinking when we can transition from response to recovery.”

Young people in Seattle have also been in the spotlight for helping Chinatown recover.

In February, 31-year-old activist Sarah Baker set up a Facebook group to share information about and help small shops in the International District. Support ID – Community United grew rapidly in the first few weeks, and members raised more than $ 16,000 for a restaurant and a local nonprofit to feed around 900 health care workers. In early June, some of the artists used the stage to organize a mural party for those who had stepped up. (Baker closed the page in July.)

He said that the multicultural structure of the International District helps it maintain a tight-knit, self-sufficient community – and it will be the key to its recovery.

In addition to the foundation stonework, smaller organizers have also arranged for block watches for unarmed volunteers to patrol the streets at night and connect homeless people to social service groups. Many of them grew up under the influence of people, and local leaders such as Bob Bob Santos, a Filipino American widely regarded as the district’s unofficial mayor, and Donny Chin, a Chinese American whom his tantric security guard Known as, modeled. .

“We colloquially say that Seattle is a ‘Little Big Town’,” Baker said. “Being able to maintain and develop that legacy is really important to a lot of people. This is a high bar to hit. “

San Francisco: “There is going to be a link to displacement.”

The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is one of the most recognized fixtures in San Francisco’s Chinatown, making handmade fortune cookies for more than half a century.

Even before the epidemic hit, the store was struggling to make a profit, fighting the double threats of rising rents and corporate rivals that mass produced cookies. By the time Lunar New Year – typically the busiest week in the neighborhood – rolled around, coronavirus and wanton anti-Asian racism had pushed daily sales to near zero.

Nevertheless, when the lockdown was lifted in July, owner Kevin Chan hoped he could turn the business on. But barely two months later, the megfire changed the sky of the Bay Area to an apocalyptic orange, reducing visitors to one or two people a day – the equivalent of the scene in late February.

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