Restaurants in Flushing, Queens are struggling to stay open due to rising rent, high competition, and labor costs — a situation that largely impacts mom-and-pop, minority operators, according to a report translated by Voices of NY. Several longtime restaurants in the Chinese food haven have closed recently, including the 20-year-old Happy Buddha and 7-year-old Mellie’s Seafood restaurant. Restaurants in the neighborhood sometimes pay more than $1 million in rent per year, but they can’t charge higher prices for food due to the market, locals say. "Flushing is the most competitive neighborhood for restaurants," James Chen, founder of restaurant delivery site Flushing Food, tells World Journal. "The rent here is higher than that in the ordinary districts in Manhattan. But the price for the same dish is 40 percent lower."
Competition for space pushes the rent prices up, according to executive director of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, John Choe. Many new Chinese people are moving into the neighborhood, and they are desperate for real estate, he says. Plus, more international brands plan on entering the market with the opening of new buildings like Flushing Commons and Two Fulton Square, making it more difficult for local people to compete, he adds. "The situation will be even worse with the increase in the minimum wage," Choe says. "Low budget food will eventually disappear in Flushing."
Things like lowering property taxes may help with the problems, other locals say. But Chen recommends that older restaurants adapt with things like social media promotions or adding online ordering and credit card payment, and Peter Tu, executive director of Flushing Chinese Business Association, urged entrepreneurs to think carefully before opening a business. The number of shop spaces is not enough to meet demand, he tells World Journal, and people need to figure out what their specialty is before getting started. "No one likes to run a business losing money," he says.