Chinatown restaurant Jing Fong will close its legendary 800-seat dining room

February 22, 2021

Photo by josh s jackson via Flickr cc

Jing Fong, NYC’s largest Chinese restaurant, will close its famous 800-person dining room due to losses suffered from the COVID crisis. The iconic dim sum spot made the announcement on Friday in an Instagram post. “We are heartbroken to announce that our Chinatown location at 20 Elizabeth Street, will be permanently closing its indoor dining operation on March 7, 2021 at 8:00pm. We will continue to operate from the 2nd floor kitchen for our outside patio, take-out, and delivery until further notice.” The pandemic took its toll early on the restaurant, which was forced to shut down temporarily in March under Governor Cuomo’s order that locations of 500 or more be closed.


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In early March, even before New York’s official shut down order, restaurants in Manhattan’s Chinatown, as well as those Chinatowns in Flushing and Sunset Park, were being disproportionately affected due to racist sentiments and the Trump administration’s use of the term “China virus.” On March 2nd, Jing Fong’s marketing director Claudia Leo told the Post that March events were down 75 percent compared to last year and business was down 50 percent. Their second location on the Upper West Side saw sales dip 20 percent.

And things have continued on a difficult trajectory for the restaurant. Indoor dining shuttered from March to September and then again from December to February. In a statement to Eater NY, third-generation owner and manager Truman Lam said, “With our drastic decline in sales and mounting losses sustained over the course of a year, we needed to make the tough call to close our indoor dining space and redirect our resources in hopes to continue our operations.” He told Eater that sales are down 85 percent year-over-year, amounting to a loss of $5 to 6 million.

Jing Fong first opened as a 150-seat dim sum restaurant at 24 Elizabeth Street in 1978. As they explain on their website:

In a still-developing Chinatown, amidst the wider economic uncertainty of New York City in the 70s, the original founders soon fell upon difficult times. With mounting operating and maintenance expenses, the owners negotiated an ingenious deal with their master plumber, Shui Ling Lam: in exchange for forgiving Jing Fong’s debits, he would become the restaurant’s majority shareholder.

The new owners moved the restaurant to its current 20,000-square-foot location at 20 Elizabeth Street in 1993. The restaurant is known for its lively atmosphere and dim sum carts, both of which have been unable to persist during the pandemic.

Until March 7th, Jing Fong’s dining room will be open Monday – Sunday from 10am to 7:45pm at 25-percent capacity and then 35-percent capacity as of this Friday. As mentioned, they will maintain what’s come to be known as a “ghost kitchen” to service outdoor dining and takeout. Their Upper West Side location will not be affected. “This is not the end for us, here at Chinatown, as we are actively looking for a new location to move into as soon as possible,” the restaurant said in their Instagram post.


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Tags: Jing Fong
Location: Chinatown

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