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No Lunar New Year boom: Richmond’s Asian restaurants suffer again from COVID-19 restrictions

Some local eateries continue to suffer during Lunar New Year.
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For some Richmond restaurant employees, this year wasn't as busy as they expected.

For some Richmond restaurants, the Lunar New Year is supposed to be the busiest time of the year.

However, for the third year in a row, the pandemic has gouged a hole in the industry’s takings – the Asian restaurant industry was the first to suffer from COVID-19, even before it was officially declared a pandemic.

One of those eateries belongs to Jason Yang, who runs the Fortune Terrace Chinese Cuisine near the Olympic Oval.

Yang said he has seen his revenue drop more than 60 per cent compared with the same period before the pandemic.

“(We) rely heavily on cash flow to keep everyone employed. Our monthly income was way over $37,000 pre-pandemic and the number was expected to soar over the holiday season,” said Yang, adding that the latest restrictions of a maximum of six people per table hit them hard.

“I used to be the ‘bad guy’ who had to turn away clients due to limited dining space before the pandemic. Now, customers called me to cancel their bookings instead.”

Many local Chinese companies prefer to host annual parties at some big eateries, but all big parties have been cancelled due to the new restrictions, explained Yang.

“It’s not just me suffering, I know many restaurant owners are struggling as well,” added Yang.

William Tse, association director of the Richmond-based BC Asian Restaurant Café Owners Association, said Yang’s struggle isn’t an isolated one.

“I recently have visited many local Asian restaurants and most of them have seen a notable revenue loss over the Lunar New Year,” said Tse.

“Some restaurants are insanely quiet that I can even have a whole table to myself. However, I had to make a reservation at least a month in advance to secure a table pre-pandemic. It’s unbelievable to see the contrast.”

Tse encouraged more people to try to do take-outs at their local eateries.

“The worst times also bring out the best in people. It’s time for us to support each other, especially our local business owners.”

Yang said his restaurant has also launched a take-out service, but it failed to live up to the expectation.

“It is different from sushi that is handy; our food portions are huge. Some clients prefer to eat here,” said Yang.