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‘Clean’ Chinese Restaurant Closes Less Than a Year After Racism Controversy

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Lucky Lee’s is dunzo

Lucky Lee’s Lucky Lee’s [Official Photo]

The fast-casual Chinese American restaurant that sparked viral outrage for racist marketing language is closing after less than a year in business. Lucky Lee’s, which opened in Greenwich Village in April, announced on its Instagram page and website that it shut down on Friday.

Nutritionist Arielle Haspel debuted the project at 67 University Place with the intention of selling classic Chinese American takeout dishes like lo mein, General Tso’s chicken, and fried rice, while following diet restrictions and current “wellness” trends, such as food without gluten or refined sugar.

But the restaurateur, who is white, quickly faced backlash for the way she marketed the restaurant. Her social media posts and other publicity materials touted her version of Chinese food as more “clean” and less ““oily,” “salty,” and “icky” than anything else available — feeding into racist stereotypes about Chinese food and Chinese-owned restaurants being dirty and unhealthy.

People immediately flooded the restaurant’s Instagram and Yelp page with comments blasting her, saying that she was profiting from Chinese culture while simultaneously degrading it by not learning the context around Chinese American restaurant menus. Many also slammed the name of the restaurant, which implied a Chinese owner but is the name of Haspel’s white husband; the restaurant is in part inspired by the Chinese food that the two of them ate growing up as Jewish-Americans in New York.

Haspel apologized and made attempts to adjust the marketing, deleting some of the offensive Instagram posts and telling the Times, “Shame on us for not being smarter about cultural sensitivities.” As recently as October, the Villager wrote an article saying the restaurant was “flourishing” after the controversy died down.

But now, Lucky Lee’s is dunzo. The restaurant’s announcement did not say why it was closing; Eater has reached out for further comment.

Lucky Lee’s

67 University Pl, New York, NY 10003 Visit Website