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San Francisco proposes $1.9-million relief package to help Chinatown businesses

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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – One of San Francisco’s oldest restaurants, Far East Cafe, says it’s closing due to economic hardships brought on by the pandemic.

The Chinatown staple has been around for more than 100 years and is just one of many restaurants and merchants struggling to keep their doors open.

Now city leaders say help is on the way with a new $1.9 million relief package for struggling restaurants, but many business owners say it won’t be enough.

Chinatown is normally a huge economic driver for the city, always bustling with tourists who flock here from other states and other countries. But now — during the pandemic — this is what it’s turned into — a total ghost town.

Many businesses are closed, including retail which are allowed to operate.

Quiet streets and shuttered businesses – now a common sight in San Francisco’s Chinatown.
As a consequence, the pandemic’s robbed the future of many businesses in the neighborhood.

Most recently, Far East Cafe, which has been open for more than 100 years announced it’s closing next week. If a Chinatown staple like Far East Cafe is closing, many business owners wonder who’s next.

Kevin Chan of Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, which is another Chinatown favorite, says business is down 68%.

A similar story for nearby businesses, however Chan was one of the luckier ones since he received a PPP loan, unlike many of his neighbors.

Eva Lee of the Chinatown Merchants Association says the pandemic’s hit Chinatown especially hard from the start.

City leaders like Supervisor Aaron Peskin who represents this district says he’s listening. He introduced legislation on Tuesday that would provide $1.9 million to Chinatown restaurants to cook meals for older adults and families through the chinatown development center’s feed and fuel program.

The program would work with 34 restaurants that previously took part in the feed and fuel program, which ran out of funding earlier this year, and expand the program further to include up to 80 small Chinatown restaurants and cafes.

Despite the prospect of aid coming to Chinatown, Chan says it’s not enough and is concerned restaurants are being prioritized over merchants.

City leaders hope the new relief funds can help Far East Cafe reverse its decision to close. Meanwhile other businesses say more needs to be done by the city, and this new relief plan will benefit a small few.

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