Jing Fong restaurant employee raises over $5,000 for outdoor extension

Claudia Leo stands where she hopes to build the new Jing Fong patio.
Photo by Dean Moses

Local restaurant employee helps raise over $5,000 to keep 42-year-old Chinatown establishment in business. 

Businesses of all sizes and varieties have been struggling throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, but perhaps no profession has been harder hit than the restaurant industry. From being forced to shut down completely, to the installation of strict rules and regulations, the financial burden has been immense. Now, with the winter months only just beginning and indoor dining still prohibited, eateries are obliged to set up curbside dining spaces in order to stay active. Unfortunately, the feat of constructing a semi-permanent safe space for patrons to enjoy meals is a costly process.     

Jing Fong restaurant has a whopping 25,000 square foot interior located on 20 Elizabeth St, but bigger does not always mean better in the face of the global pandemic. After the continued rise of virus cases throughout the city, the income provided by 25% indoor capacity has been completely lost, leaving the restaurant to live on takeaway and three tables outside the premises.

Seeing her employer struggle, Claudia Leo asked her supervisor time and time again if Jing Fong could build a bigger outdoor space to accommodate more customers, but she was told that they simply could not afford the materials needed. Unwilling to watch her work family suffer, Leo made the independent choice to create a GoFundMe page in hopes of raising the assets to create an outdoor patio.

A mere overhead canopy and a few tables stand where the patio is set to start construction. Photo by Dean Moses

“I was so nervous about doing this, it was my first ever GoFundMe account. I shared it on my personal [social media] pages first because I was nervous about what my boss was going to think. I have been coming to [Jing Fong] since I was a kid and I just really wanted to see what I could do for the restaurant and the community,” Leo told amNewYork Metro.  

Leo also expressed the assumptions the public places on them due to their size and difficulty of maintaining business in what was once a highly populated Chinatown location, an area that has seen racist rhetoric after the rise of COVID-19.

“It’s very tough. People think because we are a grand place we are rich and filled with money but the reality is we are really not. During the summer time it was better but now it’s getting cold, it’s harder.  Chinatown was the first community to get hit because the virus came from China. Luckily Jing Fong didn’t face any racism toward us but we know a bunch of other restaurants who have been defaced, it is so sad. The foot traffic has disgraced tremendously. We relied a lot on tourists, we relied on people outside of Chinatown to just come out but now it is mostly locals.”         

It is with these issues in mind that Leo hopes a new patio will provide diners a greater restaurant experience while also honoring those who donated to the project. A deck will be erected allowing for greater space for both the pedestrian walkway and for consumers to dine, complete with plexiglass for protection from germs and the elements. Leo plans to decorate the patio with hanging lanterns while also painting the deck herself. She says she wants to add the names of contributors with hands reaching out to a steamer of dumplings.  

As of Dec. 27th,  the GoFundMe page has reached its goal of $5,000 but this is just the beginning for Leo and Jing Fong. While they have purchased the materials, they still need to erect the patio. Moreover, Leo hopes that if there is money leftover after construction is complete, she can pay it forward and aid other food servers in the area.  

To learn more about donating to Jing Fong’s restaurant visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-jing-fong-restaurant-build-a-patio     

Friends eat out at Jing Fong on Dec. 24th. Photo by Dean Moses