SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — It’s been a uniquely challenging year for San Francisco’s Chinatown — the coronavirus and a virulent strain of anti-Asian sentiment has left its streets empty and its storefronts empty.
“We feel like we’re in quicksand,” says Eva Lee with the Chinatown Merchants Association.
Lee says Grant Avenue — the backbone of Chinatown’s commercial district — has been paralyzed by pandemic. Fewer than 50 of its roughly 200 restaurants and stores, Lee says, remain open after a year of lockdowns.
“After all this is over, unfortunately, there is going to be a shake up,” he said. “There are some who are going to be able to weather the storm and some who are not.”
In an effort to attract tourists back to its beleaguered businesses, Chinatown is offering weekly performances from a traditional lion dance troupe — Lion Dance Me.
The Lion Dance tradition has deep roots in Chinese history. According to tradition and legend, the original lion costume was designed to scare a monster that repeatedly terrorized a village.
“The art of Lion Dance is based off of martial arts,” said Norman Lau, owner of Lion Dance Me. “Two martial artists who were brave were chosen to come out of a village to scare away a monster that would come back every year. So, they decided to build this costume to try to scare it away.”
It’s not clear how San Francisco’s Chinatown will emerge from the pandemic — stronger somehow or scarred, smaller and arguably weaker than it was pre-pandemic.
Kevin Chan whose family owns Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory offers this advice and insight.
“We couldn’t see a future — last year,” Chan said. “We were all depressed because we don’t know what to do. But now we can see the future. The shot’s coming out. And we have a better chance.”