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Chinatown businesses seek help from London Breed amid economic fallout

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SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) — Business leaders in San Francisco’s Chinatown are urging the city’s mayor to help keep their community from going under from economic strain of the pandemic.

There is a growing concern about the economic fallout being experienced in Chinatown.

A recent survey found that approximately 50% of the businesses say they might not survive this pandemic, which is why this week a group of local business leaders sent a letter to the mayor asking for financial help to keep the oldest Chinatown in North America from being lost to history.

For those who grew up here, it’s hard to see Grant Avenue — the heart of  what is normally a tourist hot spot, nearly devoid of visitors, with gates up over many closed shops.

“I’m used to the hustle and bustle in Chinatown, but now it’s just kind of becomes a ghost town. It’s really heartbreaking to see how many businesses are negatively affected by this. It’s just becoming more difficult to survive.”

Chelsea Hung runs Washington bakery and restaurant. They recently had to lay off even more staff now that outdoor dining was shut down., forcing them to board up their parlket. Her PPP funding has run out and she’s not sure if her family’s business will still be around once this pandemic is over.

“It’s an uphill battle,” Hung said. “It’s been really unpredictable, it’s really hard to see how we’re going to survive or how long we’re going to survive,” Hung said.

It’s businesses like this restaurant that a number of  advocacy groups, including the Chinatown Community Development Center, had in mind when they wrote the mayor this week. They asked for economic aid, including a $5 million Chinatown fund to provide grants to local businesses so they can keep paying their employees and stay open. 

They maintain that this area has been struggling longer, because of xenophobia, something stoked by the current president’s characterization of coronavirus as the China flu.

“We saw a significant drop off in visitors well before shelter in place started. Our annual New Year parade, typically the biggest draw to Chinatown, we saw 30% drop in and participant and that was really devastating as a shelter in place order came, the situation worsened.”

And this year, the Chinese New year’s parade and events will be virtual, which will be another blow to the neighborhood.

The mayor’s spokesperson says they are scheduling a meeting with those business groups to talk about their request for help, saying: “We know supporting Chinatown is an important part of getting our city on the road to recovery.”

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