For Chinese and other Asian restaurants facing racism during the pandemic, Chowbus, an app focused on Asian cuisine, has made a difference
In mid-February, Stacy Jamieson, the general manager of Tian Fu restaurant in Seattle’s Northgate neighborhood, surveyed his 4,000-square-foot dining room at what was usually the dinner rush time. Every table was empty. Where the popular Szechuan restaurant had been enjoying 45-minute waits on weekends, now it was lucky to serve 10 tables in a whole day.
At the time, Covid-19 was still something many Americans had only heard about: It had killed thousands across Asia, but the U.S. was relatively unscathed. But anti-Asian sentiment, a racist backlash to the developing pandemic, was already bubbling across the country. Americans not only quietly judged Asian Americans but also physically attacked them: In New York, a man assaulted a Chinese woman for wearing a mask; in California’s San Fernando Valley, bullies beat up an Asian American boy and accused him of having the coronavirus.
“Chinese restaurants were perhaps the first place that Covid-19 racism was visible,” said James Boo, the managing producer of podcast Self-Evident_, _which focuses on Asian American stories. In New York in early March, for example, even before the first reported coronavirus case in the city, business at Chinese restaurants dropped 60%. “Some local restaurant owners even stopped operating,” Boo said, “because their employees were too scared to come to work — not because of Covid-19, but because of the hate incidents that had already started to spread.” By April, unemployment claims filed by people of Asian descent in NYC had increased 6,900%.
As other restaurants across the country saw huge huge upticks in delivery and takeout orders, for Tian Fu, Jamieson says at first there were very few people placing orders. “The immediate impact would be not only the sales and ability to pay rent,” she says, “but also, how do we pay salaries to our employees?”
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