“Asian Eats” aims to help restaurants hit hard by COVID-19, xenophobia

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It’s been a double whammy for Asian restaurants.

Early on in the epidemic, unfounded fears about the virus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, caused a slowdown in traffic and prompted Mayor Jim Kenney and members of City Council to dine in Chinatown to show it was safe.

That was only a few months back, but it feels like a year ago. Since then, Asian-owned establishments, like many small businesses, have been severely affected by virus-related restrictions.

Last week, in an effort to help those businesses that are still open, the Asian American Chamber Commerce for Greater Philadelphia launched its “Asian Eats” campaign.

So far, nearly 20 Asian-owned restaurants and grocery stores in Philadelphia and Montgomery and Camden counties have signed up to participate in the initiative.

“This campaign is to encourage Asian businesses to continue their services through social media, not only for the current situation, but to continue providing such services during the recovery period,” Narasimha Shenoy, the chamber’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “Keeping these jobs is crucial to the community as well as the health of our economy.”

AACCGP is promoting the effort on its social media channels, and businesses can still fill out a form to be featured.

The chamber was thinking about ideas to support restaurants and came across the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s “Dine Latino” initiative, a similar campaign to promote Hispanic-owned eateries.

Betsy Lee-Fong, AACCGP’s director of programs and operations, said they also thought of it as a great way to mark Asian Pacific American Heritage month, which begins Friday.

PHOTO: Asian American Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia

Coronavirus-related restrictions make it difficult to know which restaurants are operating and when. Some are offering limited menus, and customers are now required to order in advance for pick-up.

Lee-Fong said she has received a ton of phone calls asking which places are still open and what delivery services they are offering.

“You want to know before you leave now,” she said.

The unfounded fears about Asian-owned businesses haven’t faded, Lee-Fong said, even as more than 14,000 Philadelphians have tested positive for COVID-19, the vast majority of them African American and white.

Reports persist about racism and harassment against Asian Americans, stoked by references to a “Chinese virus” and “Kung Flu.”

“I think the Asian businesses got an earlier hit, and with all the racism that goes on around this COVID-19 virus, it does hit a little harder in the Asian American communities,” Lee-Fong said.

For more information about the businesses included in the “Asian Eats” promotion, visit www.asianchamberphila.org.

The campaign is open to businesses in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties. Participating restaurants do not have to be AACCGP members, and businesses will receive one-year free membership for signing up.

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