Neighborhood organizers and employees on the Jing Fong restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown have proposed a daring plan to avoid wasting the legacy of the storied dim sum banquet corridor, by taking up the restaurant’s lease via a employees’ collective possession plan and launching a brand new eatery there.
At a press convention outdoors Jing Fong’s multi-story house at 20 Elizabeth Avenue Friday, organizers from the restaurant’s union and from group teams mentioned their plan would assist save the roles of roughly 100 workers who may keep on on the new restaurant. In addition they see this as an opportunity to help the native Chinatown financial system via tourism generated by the attraction of a preferred restaurant. At its pre-pandemic top, Jing Fong was drawing about 10,000 clients per week, in line with union representatives.
The employees’ union and different supporters have referred to as for saving the employees’ jobs because the house owners, the Lam household, introduced final month they had been closing its indoor eating service after 43 years, citing the pandemic-driven lack of income and the shortcoming to pay lease on its 20 Elizabeth Avenue lease.
The restaurant house owners mentioned they plan to proceed supply and takeout service in addition to out of doors eating at its Elizabeth Avenue website. A part of the choice was pushed by their incapability to pay lease on the house — Eric Phillips, a PR consultant for the owner Jonathan Chu, has mentioned the restaurant house owners hadn’t paid lease since March 2020.
“We do not wish to simply run a restaurant, we wish to make the Jing Fong expertise even higher,” mentioned group organizer Don Lee in a cellphone interview.
The plan would make Jing Fong, one of many few unionized eating places within the metropolis, a high-profile instance of a collectively-owned enterprise. Final yr, Mayor Invoice de Blasio introduced new assets to assist struggling companies convert from single-ownership to employee-owned constructions that may include tax advantages and better return on income: “employee-owned companies create an amazing actuality of fairness and equity, of buy-in, of alternative to create capital and have an possession stake that adjustments the entire actuality, significantly for working class of us and significantly in communities of coloration,” de Blasio mentioned at a press convention in December.
A few of the particulars of the plan stay unclear, Lee acknowledged, together with the amount of cash wanted to arrange the collective possession plan and to revive the house. He mentioned the Lams have already determined to surrender the 20 Elizabeth Avenue lease, so the house will probably be obtainable to function a brand new restaurant there.
An e-mail despatched to a member of the Lam household for remark was not answered Friday.
“The Chu household has been part of the Chinatown group for generations – and so they at all times will probably be. Whereas we’re nonetheless within the means of figuring out what’s subsequent for this distinctive house, there isn’t any doubt that we are going to require the longer term tenant to contribute to the vitality and well being of our group. We’re trying ahead to the subsequent chapter at 20 Elizabeth St.,” mentioned Phillips, the consultant for the household who owns the constructing, in an announcement.
Nelson Mar, president of the 318 Restaurant Employees Union, mentioned he helps Lee’s imaginative and prescient and urged the landlords of the constructing to conform to their plan.
“That is the correct factor for them to do,” Mar mentioned. “They need to instantly sit down with Don and his crew to chart a path for opening a restaurant, again up in that house.”
If the brand new collective possession plan succeeds, the restaurant will seemingly must have a unique identify, Lee mentioned, because the Lams have a second Jing Fong location on the Higher West Aspect that has remained open.
Lee additionally mentioned the ultimate greenback quantity essential to implement this plan will rely upon whether or not they obtain funding from the town, and he pledged that funding will go in direction of paying the again lease owed to the Chu household.
Greater than only a dim sum banquet corridor, Lee mentioned he envisions a model new multi-sensory idea at 20 Elizabeth Avenue. “We’ll use the additional house in Jing Fong for visible artwork exhibitions,” he mentioned, in addition to staging stay productions whereas diners eat.
“We’re searching for a win-win-win,” Lee added. “The employees save their jobs, New York Metropolis and the group has the anchor retailer and the landmark that Jing Fong is to proceed to function, and the owner will get the lease.”