Hundreds of Lower Manhattan residents and members from the 318 Restaurant Workers Union gathered on 183 Centre St. outside of Eastbank on Tuesday to rally against the closure of beloved restaurant Jing Fong.
The protesters requested that Eastbank landlord Alex Chu and his son, Jonathan Chu, negotiate with Jing Fong’s owners to save the restaurant from eviction amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to amNY.
— Dean_Moses (@Dean_Moses) March 2, 2021
“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 Displacement, said during the protest.
“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? Today we are here with 318 Restaurant Workers Union members, working for Jing Fong restaurant for years. We want full control of our jobs, of our livelihoods—of our community!”
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Jing Fong had to close its doors temporarily last year due to the mandate released by Governor Andrew Cuomo which banned gatherings of large groups of people. The restaurant officially announced last month that it would be permanently closing its indoor dining area on March 7.
At the protest, demonstrators called out politicians such as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for their lack of involvement in helping Jing Fong.
About 70 of Jing Fong’s 150 employees are members of the 318 Restaurant Workers Union, Hyperallergic reported.
The union claimed that the restaurant’s landlords did nothing to prevent Jing Fong’s business from plummeting. The landlords also reportedly rejected a request to waive rent.
Claudia Leo, a spokesperson for the restaurant, told Hyperallergic that China Arcade LLC offered Jing Fong some rent relief. She also explained that the restaurant’s closure occurred because of the decline in sales due to the pandemic.
“With 800 seats in the restaurant, it’s just impossible. Business has been down 85% — it’s not a typical 25% or 30%,” Leo said. “It’s hard for us to sustain ourselves, no matter how many deliveries we make. It’s becoming harder and harder for us to survive.”
Contrary to what the union claimed, Jonathan Chu said in a statement that the amount Jing Fong has to pay for its monthly rent has never changed since it first opened in 1993. He also claimed that the restaurant’s owners have not paid rent for 12 months.
“Nobody has tried harder to keep Jing Fong in this space than we have,” Chu said. “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.”
Feature Image via @Dean_Moses