SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – Already hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, a landmark restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown could close its doors after a century.
Bars on windows, metal gates rolled down, lanterns barely swaying in the still – a walk down Grant Avenue is unsettling these days for the average person.
For business owners, it’s terrifying.
“Little did I know nine months ago, that I would see Chinatown as a ghost town. And it really scared me to death,” said Eva Lee of the Chinese Merchants Association.
Among the potential casualties of the pandemic in Chinatown is the Far East Cafe on 631 Grant. The landmark restaurant opened its doors in 1920.
Owner Bill Lee is trying to hang on without outdoor dining and no banquets, only takeout and meals he makes for seniors in conjunction with SF New Deal.
Lee said he needs to make around $5,000 a day in takeout to survive.
“We keep losing money each day. So, then all our shareholders, we have a meeting and we decide we need to close down at the end of this month,” Lee said in a news conference Wednesday.
Help could be on the way. District 3 Supervisor Aaron Peskin has proposed a $1.9 million supplemental appropriation for restaurants.
“Because restaurants like this, the Far East, are hanging on by a thread. And because Bill Lee has stuck through thick and thin through great financial cost, is now poised to close on the last day of this calendar year, I have to make those hard choices,” Peskin said.
Locals hope that Far East comes back again.
“It is our soul. We can’t let it die. It’s our culture. It’s our living room, it’s where we go for solace. It’s where we go to replenish. It’s where we go to laugh and cry together. I really don’t want him to stop. Just take a vacation,” said Betty Louie of the Chinese Merchants Association.