George Chen’s high-end China Live restaurant in San Francisco’s Chinatown has lost 90% of its Lunar New Year bookings made by company parties and large families, as the Omicron variant ramps up across the United States due to the spread of COVID-19. is suspected. Since the start of the Omicron boom, three of its 100 employees have had the disease.
But his three-story restaurant isn’t turning down dine-in customers like it was a year ago. No state or local government has ordered a shutdown. Smaller parties can still come for informal, private meals, and Chen expects to see more of those gatherings ahead of the global Chinese population’s major annual holiday, which falls on February 1 this year.
“Last year I think we were in the middle of a shutdown – during that time we couldn’t even” [be] Allowed to sit outside, forget indoors,” Chen told VOA on Tuesday. “This year is tough. … We’ll keep our fingers crossed and hopefully people feel more comfortable, get vaccinated and enjoy coming out.”
The story of a 64-year-old career restaurateur serves as a microcosm for San Francisco, the keeper of the most famous Chinatown in the United States, as the Year of the Tiger is approaching.
Countless individuals have decided to stay home, noticing the thin crowds, but San Francisco’s signature Chinese New Year Festival and Parade lined densely populated mountain streets lined with red Chinese-owned shops for rolling floats and The lion is scheduled to perform the dance. The city’s annual Chinese New Year street fair is also ongoing.
“Because of vaccination this year, as we have a better understanding of the variants and the pandemic, we are cautious about going ahead with the live parade,” said William Gee, a spokesman for the parade organizer. “We’re looking forward to bringing back a lot of iconic memories and performances that people remember just by coming out and watching the parade.”
Event organizers say everyone out there should be vaccinated or come with proof of a negative COVID-19 test a few days earlier.
Locals told the VOA that they had enough time to stay indoors.
For example, 50-year-old Lin Wei says she plans to move out. The sweeper came for work 11 years ago from Guangdong province and recounts the energy of a vibrant Lunar New Year celebration. The Lunar New Year in China includes the equivalent of large, extended family reunions, weeks of fireworks and a formal spring cleaning for each household.
“The last two years (the ceremony) took off, so this year there might be something else, and I’ll show up if I have time,” Lin said. On the occasion of catching COVID-19, he said, “I have been stunned in the last two years.”
But Lin said he would avoid taking his family to the festival as a health precaution.
Sherwin Won, 69, a retired university clinical laboratory scientist, plans to abandon the traditional large family reunion and focus on spring cleaning. As a family, the San Francisco native said, “We talked about it and discussed it and said, ‘We’re going to celebrate it after six months.
Like the chain’s restaurants, open events and venues in San Francisco’s Chinatown are expected to attract a generally slimmer crowd as people decide to stay home and avoid the risk of infection. The chain estimates that 50% of the district’s stores are probably closed for good during the pandemic.
Paper goods and variety stores in San Francisco did only sporadic business this week as supplies of holiday decorations became scarce. Holidaymakers typically buy Lunar New Year paper scrolls to hang on their front doors and red envelopes for cash that will be gifted to children in the family.
The Buddha Exclusive Corp. paper goods store has turned to airmail to import most of its Made in China 2022 supplies because normal sea shipping “takes a lot longer than usual,” said store operator Rebecca Cheung, as such There has been an increase in the prices of goods.
COVID-19 restrictions and rising consumer demand have halted sea shipping in much of the world.
Elsewhere in the United States, Chicago’s Chinatown is gearing up for the annual Lunar New Year parade and lion dance. The Seattle Chinatown International District has postponed its Lunar New Year celebrations event until April 30.
Events are also expected in Los Angeles and Houston, while Washington, DC canceled its 2022 event.
Michelle Quinn, Matt Dibble, Michael O’Sullivan contributed to this report.