By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
After two farewell dinners, the House of Hong Restaurant, once an institution in Chinatown and the favorite eatery of many, closed its doors on July 11.
When our editor walked by on July 12, the sign at the Hong’s door read, “We are closed.” The lights were out. As of July 13, the sign was changed to say they are closed for remodeling.
Owner Tan Tho Tien hosted two dinners on July 10 and 11, one for community leaders to thank them for their support over the years and the other for old and new staff members. Each dinner had about 100 guests.
The new owner is Po Lee, who owned the House of Hong a decade ago. Lee bought both the property and business from founder Faye Hong.
Lee called the Northwest Asian Weekly on July 12 and said he plans to buy back Hong. The restaurant will be temporarily closed for remodeling. Lee plans to reopen the restaurant on Aug. 1. Lee would not disclose the amount for buying back the business.
He said he and the other side are happy with the result.
Tough business climate
“It’s a tough business to run a restaurant in Chinatown,” said waiter Nelson, who didn’t want to reveal his last name. He was one of the original staff members when the restaurant first opened in 1983.
“Wages and costs are high, and it’s tough to be next to the many homeless tents (under the freeway),” said Nelson.
“Who wants to eat here (with those tents nearby)?” he asked. “It scares customers away.
Nelson said some homeless folks have used the restroom in Hong. They pretended to be customers, ordered food, used the restroom, and then left. “We can’t do anything about it.”
Known for his generosity, Tan said he has been losing money since he took over Hong 10 years ago. He said, “I can absorb the loss since I own another wholesale food business. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have lasted that long.”
Tan has been a constant supporter for many community groups and charitable functions, including Japan’s tsunami benefit dinner, which raised over $70,000.
When asked how he feels about not having to run the restaurant, Tan said, “Freedom.”
Assunta Ng can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.