Jing Fong Workers Protest Dining Room Closure and Rumored Shutdown
Despite the brisk weather, several dozen union members and Jing Fong employees rallied Tuesday morning in front of the East West Bank on Centre Street to save save the iconic dim sum restaurant. Advocates called on the Chu family, which owns the Elizabeth Street property (and the aforementioned bank), to stop killing Chinatown and to keep the institution alive.
As widely reported, the 43-year-old restaurant last week announced they would shut down the second floor dining room, effective this Sunday (March 7). Takeout service and ghost kitchen reportedly remain, but rumors persist that all operations will nevertheless cease at the end of the month.
Jing Fong, with its cavernous, thousand-seat dining hall, ruled the Chinatown dim sum and banquet scene in its heyday and employed a staff of over 180. However, the legend met its match with the pandemic-related ban on inside dining that took effect exactly one year ago.
Many employees, fearing the permanent loss of their livelihoods, called on the landlord to stop a rumored eviction of Jing Fong and work with the restaurant owners to hash out a deal to save the restaurant. One of the demonstrators demanded Mayor de Blasio and Councilwoman Margaret Chin get involved – “you say you are concerned for Chinatown but where are you now?”
Jonathan Chu who manages the property gave me this following statement ::
“The owners of Jing Fong decided that this type of extremely large space is no longer sustainable for their restaurant,” landlord Jonathan Chu told me. “Nobody has tried harder to keep Jing Fong in this space than we have.”
“Jing Fong’s base rent has remained the same since 1993 – and the restaurant hasn’t paid any rent for the last 12 months,” he continued. “My family has been loyal patrons of Jing Fong for decades, standing shoulder to shoulder with employees on holidays and during important life events. We are saddened by this pandemic and the unemployment that has resulted from inadequate federal, state and local support for workers and small businesses.”
So, in the unlikely event that a deal is forged through a combination of bankruptcy protection and rent forgiveness, can Jing Fong stay afloat until the crowds return post-pandemic?
Sadly, probably not.