By John Ramos

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — With the drop in tourism and anti-China rhetoric from national politicians, San Francisco’s Chinatown has been one of the areas especially hard-hit in the pandemic.

An exuberant Lion Dance helped celebrate the 58th anniversary of the Golden State Fortune Cookie Factory on Saturday. The colorful lions and loud music is meant to bring prosperity by scaring bad spirits away but factory owner Kevin Chan said this one was for Chinatown itself.

“I thought we could just bring a little life for the community and, hopefully, more people will come to Chinatown and support the community because our community is dead,” Chan said.

Chinatown relies heavily on tourists and there are few of them around these days. The city has closed Grant Avenue for six blocks to allow for outdoor dining and businesses are being offered $500 grants to buy the equipment needed to bring their trade outdoors. Saturday, a group of friends calling themselves the Dim Sum Eaters, were enjoying their al fresco dining experience.

“I would love to see this happen in many streets permanently,” said San Francisco resident Cindy Casey. “I think it would be excellent, this is a marvelous street to permanently close.”

Many businesses aren’t even trying to open. Oakland resident Sonny Le is an immigrant himself and says harsh rhetoric blaming the Chinese for the coronavirus may be discouraging merchants from trying to be more high-profile.

“America has become less hospitable to immigrants and refugees,” Le said. “Right now Asians are being told to go back to China — the ‘Wuhan virus,’ the ‘Chinese virus!’”

With many restaurants reporting revenue loss of 70 percent, there’s talk that perhaps only a third of them may survive to the end of the year. Back at the cookie factory, the fortunes of Chinatown seem bleak and owner Kevin Chan says all the street closures and lion dances in the world won’t do any good as long as customers stay away.

“Because, if people don’t come out, there’s no point in having a space here,” Chan said.