Seeing a restaurant close in New York City these days is nothing unusual, as we’ve discussed here before. But the case of Lucky Lee’s Chinese restaurant in Manhattan comes with more of a social justice warrior twist to it. As soon as it opened there were protests from the woke crowd leading to a lot of negative press coverage and on Friday, after only eight months in operation, the business shut down. The complaints about the eatery had nothing to do with the quality of the food, the prices or the location, however. People were upset because the woman who opened it was white. And that means she was “appropriating” Asian culture or something. (NBC News)
Controversial New York City restaurant Lucky Lee’s announced that it closed its doors on Friday.
The establishment, which opened in April by white nutritionist Arielle Haspel, had been marred by accusations of racism and cultural appropriation from the Asian American community. It initially described its cuisine as “clean Chinese food,” comparing its meals to the “icky” dishes at traditional Chinese American joints.
In a statement on its website, the restaurant did not provide a rationale for its closure but wrote that “it is with a heavy heart that we are shutting down our woks and ovens tonight.”
First of all, I’ve long since grown tired of the entire “cultural appropriation” nonsense. Nobody owns a particular style of dress, genre of music or recipes of cuisine. Everyone can dress, dance or cook as they please. It’s curious how some folks are always going on about how America is a melting pot and should welcome the cultures of the various places people come here from. But that’s apparently only true for some people.
Returning to the specifics of this story, some of the complaints almost look legitimate on the surface. Having a new restaurant claim that some of their competitors are “dirty” seems like a rather nasty attack. But you can go through the list of city health department code violations and find many, many places that failed inspections because of unsanitary conditions. And, yes, that includes a lot of Chinese restaurants.
Lucky Lee’s was also attacked for advertising that their food didn’t contain MSG and used less salt for health-conscious diners. This was apparently also deemed racist, despite the fact that many questions remain about whether MSG is good for you or not. I realize that racism comes in all shapes and forms, but “anti-MSG bias” is a new one for me.
And finally, there was the name. “Lucky Lee’s” just sounds very Chinese so a white person shouldn’t use it, right? Except for the fact that the owner’s husband’s name is Lee. Give me a break.
It’s hard to say how much the anti-appropriation backlash had to do with the business’ failure, however. The foodservice industry is one of the most competitive you’ll find and profit margins tend to be thin to begin with. After the new minimum wage laws fully kicked into gear over the past few years, dining establishments have been laying off workers and closing down at a rapid rate. But with so little room for error, being identified as insufficiently woke for the standards of New York City could easily make the difference.
So congratulations, New Yorkers. You’ve managed to put another operation out of business and send all of their workers to the unemployment line. I can’t imagine how proud you all must feel.