Lucky Lee’s, a Chinese-American restaurant ran by nutritionist Arielle Haspel, has closed down eight months after opening its doors in April.
Haspel’s restaurant, located at 67 University Place in Greenwich Village, New York, made the announcement on Dec. 6, Friday, on Instagram, according to Eater.
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It is with a heavy heart that we are shutting down our woks and ovens tonight. We have truly loved feeding and entertaining you and your families. We are very proud of our food and the space we created, but a lot needs to come together to make a restaurant work in New York City and we wish it could have succeeded as we hoped. Thank you to our talented employees who cooked with love and enthusiasm daily. Thank you to you, our amazing customers and neighbors who dined with us and ordered delivery week after week. Thank you also to all who partnered with us to help make our vision a reality. We feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to serve you. While we are heartbroken to say goodbye to Lucky Lee’s, we know that the future still looks bright and delicious. Happy and healthy holidays to all of you. #bewell #luckyleesnyc
“It is with a heavy heart that we are shutting down our woks and ovens tonight. We have truly loved feeding and entertaining you and your families,” the restaurant wrote. “We are very proud of our food and the space we created, but a lot needs to come together to make a restaurant work in New York City and we wish it could have succeeded as we hoped.”
Lucky Lee’s opening in April received major backlash from the Asian community after its restaurateur marketed the restaurant’s Chinese food as “clean” while traditional food as “oily,” “salty,” and “icky.”
Many people reportedly flooded the restaurant’s social media with messages calling out its owner, saying how they were profiting from Chinese culture while also disrespecting it. There were also others who called out the name of the restaurant implying that it is Chinese owned, but it’s actually the name of Haspel’s Caucasian husband.
After the outrage, Haspel addressed criticisms of racism and cultural appropriation and offered a public apology on the restaurant’s Instagram.
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From our owner, Arielle: I am genuinely sorry to have disappointed and hurt so many of you. We learned that our marketing perpetuated negative stereotypes that the Chinese American community has been trying to fight for decades. As a health coach turned first-time restaurateur, I never meant for the word “clean” to mean anything other than in the “clean-eating” philosophy, which caters towards a specific nutrition and wellness lifestyle. I also did not realize that the plays on words we used for marketing purposes were reminiscent of offensive language used against the Chinese American community. I was naive and I am sorry. We promise to do better. We have adjusted the verbiage in our marketing and are proactively engaging the Chinese American community to understand how to make positive changes. We are grateful to those who have reached out directly with constructive thoughts, and encourage you to keep doing so in a positive manner. Lucky Lee’s is inspired by American-Chinese food. We are aware that American-Chinese recipes were originally modified to suit western palates and that it is not a representation of authentic Chinese food. My husband and I are native New Yorkers for whom General Tso’s chicken was a big and happy part of our Jewish childhoods. I set out to serve delicious American-Chinese inspired dishes aligned with my health requirements and preferences. I have done this with many different types of cuisines, and American Chinese dishes were some of our favorites. While we acknowledge that trust must be earned, in the spirit of food as something that often unites people, we hope we can move forward positively so we can eat well, live well and be well…together. Be Well, Arielle #luckyleesnyc
“We are so sorry,” Haspel told New York Times. “We were never trying to do something against the Chinese community. We thought we were complementing an incredibly important cuisine, in a way that would cater to people that had certain dietary requirements.”
The reason behind the closure was not revealed despite a report in October from The Villager stating the restaurant was “flourishing” after the controversy died down.
Feature Image via luckyleesnyc