Businesses In Chinatowns Suffer Amid COVID-19 Pandemic Ahead Of Lunar New Year


Thursday, February 11th 2021, 12:44 pm
By: CBS News


COVID-19 has strained businesses around the country, but few communities have been hit harder than the nation's Chinatowns.

With the Lunar New Year beginning February 12, a local activist has brought light and new hope to the neighborhood.

When the sun sets over New York City's Chinatown, Mott Street lights up. Approximately 250 lanterns have turned back the darkness of winter.

"It's all positive vibes down here, and this is what we need for the neighborhood," said Patrick Mock.

Mock grew up in the neighborhood and manages a local bakery. He watched COVID-19 turn the area into a ghost town.

"The damage of 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy was huge, but we rebounded from it, but what really hit us hard was COVID-19," said Mock.

Dozens of businesses have shuttered and community leaders believe many of them are gone for good. Chinatown's business improvement district estimates there were more than 300 restaurants before the pandemic. As of now, about 40 are still open for delivery only.

"Many of these businesses are small, they're small in nature. They're not the businesses that have cash flow or a reserve to be able to rely on," District Leader Jenny Low said.

To bring back visitors, Mock launched a fundraiser to "Light Up Chinatown." For a $45 donation, participants get a personalized lantern, with Chinese characters for peace, good fortune, and love.

The lights have already become a big attraction for visitors to New York's Chinatown. The inspiration came from another struggling neighborhood thousands of miles away.

San Francisco's Chinatown is the oldest in the nation. As in New York, customers in started disappearing from the area weeks before the official shutdowns.

"I'm worried about my people here. It's the saddest thing," San Francisco Chinatown resident Stanley Gee said.

In New York, Mock envisions the lanterns drawing visitors in time for this month's Lunar New Year. But just as important, he aims to brighten the mood for business owners and give them hope that better days are ahead.