Protesters Rally to Keep NYC Chinatown’s Iconic Jing Fong Open

Jing Fong has been serving New Yorkers since 1993.

As the largest restaurant in New York City's Chinatown neighborhood, Jing Fong would be noteworthy even without its dedicated patrons or 100-plus employees. But last month, when Jing Fong announced plans to shutter, the ramifications included another wrinkle: Jing Fong is also Chinatown's last remaining unionized restaurant, meaning the neighborhood's 70 unionized workers would be among those losing their jobs. For many, adding up all of these things that made the nearly three-decade-old restaurant unique meant that losing it would be too much to bear.

On Tuesday, over 100 people marched in protest in Chinatown, according to AM NY, hoping to halt the official closure slated to take place on March 7. "We are here today because we have had enough! We are told by society that it's inevitable that the restaurants and small businesses will close due to COVID, but is it really inevitable?" Yolanda Zhang, a speaker from Youth Against Displacement, was quoted as saying. "Is it really inevitable for small businesses to be displaced by big landlords like Alex Chu in the midst of this pandemic? Is it really inevitable to force workers to lose their jobs?"

Jing Fong restaurant interior
A pre-pandemic dim sum service at Jing Fong. CNMages / Alamy Stock Photo

Chu Enterprises, which owns the building, issued a statement saying they wanted to keep the restaurant open. "The owners of Jing Fong decided that this type of extremely large space is no longer sustainable for their restaurant," the landlord was quoted as saying. "Nobody has tried harder to keep Jing Fong in this space than we have." But according to Grub Street, Claudia Leo, Jing Fong's director of marketing and PR, contradicted this account. "Long story short, they wanted the space back," she said.

Regardless, without further intervention, it appears the closure is inevitable. "While we are here protesting the closure we are also wondering: Where are all these politicians who claim to be against anti-Asian violence?" Zishun Ning from the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side said. "Where are they? Isn't this violence?"

For its part, the 318 Restaurant Workers Union the represents Jing Fong's workers hopes that negotiations are still possible. In a statement provided to Eater, the union said, "The employer and the landlord should work together with the union to ensure that the restaurant continues to operate in its iconic role in the community as the largest Chinese restaurant in New York City."

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