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Chinatown Businesses Have Uncertain Future As Pandemic Disrupts Christmas Traditions

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot about our lives.

But, as CBS2's Nick Caloway reported Friday, some Christmas traditions have hung around.

Even in the thick of the pandemic, the bright lights and holiday decorations of Midtown attracted thousands to come out on Christmas night to soak it all in.

"Yes, we're just seeing the sights and taking some photos... for [my son's] first Christmas," said Grace Makosa of Westchester.

"It's the best," said Airiss Bordelon from New Orleans. "Pictures don't even do justice. It's so pretty,"

"It's beautiful. Bright lights, busy. Traffic is crazy," said Justin Bordelon.

Another Christmas tradition for many in New York is grabbing a meal in Chinatown.

"Yes, we come almost every year," said Emily Gontmacher of Sheepshead Bay.

"Come grab some good foot, support the local businesses," said James Markowitz of Murray Hill.

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For Chinatown residents, Christmas is one of the busiest nights of the year, along with Mother's Day.

But the usual buzz of the neighborhood was noticeably absent this year.

"You know, I'd be joking if I said it felt the same. You can kind of tell that there's not as many people around. It's a little sad. But, I think the businesses are getting some good support," Markowitz said.

"It's a lot quieter. Less people. But everyone's still really busy," Gontmacher said.


With indoor dining suspended again, restaurants must rely on takeout orders and for customers to be willing to brave the cold.

Even with the frigid weather, many outdoor tables were full on Christmas. But it may not be enough for some restaurants to survive.

Wellington Chen, the executive director of the Chinatown Business Improvement District, said 2021 can't come soon enough.

"Across the board, they are saying we're living day-by-day. And we just want to get over this period, because it's not about making money. It's not even about breaking even. It's just about hanging on," said Chen.

There are just more than 300 restaurants in Chinatown. A recent survey found at least 10% of them have been forced to close.

What is not known is how many will come back after the pandemic.


CBS2's Nick Caloway contributed to this report.

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