New York restaurant blames burden of city regulations for its closing
The fun has stopped at a longtime Chinese restaurant in Manhattan that fed its share of celebrities and locals for a quarter-century.
China Fun on Second Avenue on New York’s Upper East Side, once frequented by Jerry Seinfeld, Martin Scorsese and Rudy Giuliani, among other notables, posted a notice on its front door blaming city and state regulations for its Jan 3 shuttering.
The all-caps note claimed that “the state and municipal governments, with their punishing rules and regulations, seem to believe that we should be their William Hennelly cash machine to pay for all that ails us in society, even though we suffer just like everyone else from an economy in flux”.
“It has been a great run serving you our delicious soup dumplings, scallion pancakes and General T’sao Chicken, but the climate for small businesses like ours in New York (has) become such that it’s difficult to justify taking risks and running — nevermind starting — a legitimate ‘mom-and-pop’ business”.
“While the circumstances surrounding the closure of this specific restaurant are unclear, the NYC Department of Small Business Services offers free, on-site regulatory consultations to help small businesses proactively comply with applicable laws,” department spokesman Nick Benson told dnainfo.com.
On Monday, brown paper covered the windows at the 64th Street restaurant. About 1 of every 3 passers-by stopped to read the closing declaration.
Dorothea Wu, a Shanghai native, opened China Fun in 1991 with her husband Felix.
A recent review in Time Out New York called the restaurant “an Upper East Side institution” and “a jack-of-all-trades neighborhood eatery with an impossibly long menu and a dizzying number of options”.
“It’s no surprise that its strength is in Cantonese-style cuisine given that owner Dorothea Wu — grandniece of General Chiang Kai-Shek and a Taiwanese immigrant herself — has a personal affinity for soup dumplings,” the review said.
The owners’ son, Albert, told the New York Daily News that paperwork and regulation had an accumulative effect on the business.
“When we started out in 1991, the lunch special was $4 a plate,” he said. “Now it’s $10, $12. The cost of doing business is just too onerous. In a one-restaurant operation like ours, you’re spending more time on paperwork than you are trying to run your business.”
Wu also mentioned increases in the city’s minimum wage and insurance. “And I haven’t even gone into the Health Department rules and regulations.”
Wu told Patch.com that business costs “became too prohibitive” and the minimum wage increase was the last nail in the coffin”.
“Small businesses are not hedge funds or private equity firms; the career politicians who make our laws but at the same time have zero business experience have to realize that restaurants operate on razor thin margins and cannot withstand overnight wage increases of 30 percent,” he said.
For 2017, the minimum wage for restaurant workers at city establishments with 11 workers or more is $11 an hour. However, employers can reduce that rate to $9.15 an hour when tips are averaged into pay.
A perusing of Yelp! reviews showed a mixed bag: “Overpriced Chinese and mediocre at best. We ordered pick up — my boyfriend got sesame chicken $16.99 and I got streamed chicken with broccoli and water chestnuts $19.99. My portion was small compared to his. Also ordered hot and sour soup which they call “seafood hot and sour soup” and there was not ONE single piece of seafood. Gave one star for the quick preparation but feel we can order better-tasting Chinese food for 25% less.”
“I’m heartbroken to hear they are closing,” wrote one patron. “They’ve always had a good crowd, and it’s been one of my go-to’s for years.”
Contact the writer at williamhennelly@ chinadailyusa.com
The China Fun restaurant in Manhattan has closed after 25 years.