Fresno Asian restaurant reopens after being shut down by racist rumor
After being forced to close amid false accusations fueled by a racist stereotype, a Laos-Thai restaurant in Fresno, California, has reopened with a new name and outlook.
Catch up: Love & Thai, formerly known as Tasty Thai, faced a tumultuous period in early 2023 after TikTok user Maria Garcia falsely accused the restaurant of using dog meat. The false, racist claim led to a barrage of harassment, death threats and fears for the safety of the owner, David Rasavong.
While the accusation was immediately debunked, the family-run business was forced to shut down in May after just seven months of operation.
Beginning again: Rasavong would later find unwavering support from the community. For one, a shopping center property manager offered the restaurant a new location at 4821 E. Butler Ave. in Fresno. Local artists and designers also volunteered their services for the grand reopening on Nov. 3, 2023.
In a new interview with AP News, Rasavong expressed his belief that what they went through happened for a reason.
“There’s a journey that we’re supposed to go on. Don’t get me wrong. People need to realize this business is not easy … But you know, we believe in what we’re doing and so far so good.”
Standing together against hate: Speaking at the grand reopening of Love & Thai, Fresno City Councilman Luis Chavez emphasized the community’s strength in supporting small businesses and standing up against hate. According to Chavez, Love & Thai is a “story about resilience” born out of something “vile and hateful.”
Other community leaders who spoke at the event include Fresno Center President Pao Yang, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central California President Diane Phakonekham, Efrain Botello-Cisneros from the State Attorney General’s Office and Laotian Community of Fresno (LACF) Executive Director Khampha Thephavong.
Looking back at the incident, Rasavong shared that the ordeal did not feel real at the time.
“When you have people that have such disgust for you and have such disgusting accusations, it is hard to get out of that feeling,” he said. “It’s not something I would wish for anyone.”
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