As I reported last week, the restaurant 69 Bayard closed in Chinatown this weekend. I went in for a final meal--and also a first.
The line went down the block and around the corner. Most of the patrons were young Chinese people, long-time regulars, and a few older folks.
According to NPR, 69 Bayard had been here for 80 years. They closed because the landlord hiked the rent, denying them a new lease. It's the story we've heard now a hundred thousand times.
Inside the busy restaurant, I shared a table with a Chinese family.
The mom told me how she used to pick up her son from school and bring him in every day for a good, affordable meal. "Lots of memories," she said.
We talked about Chinatown and changes. "Everything in Chinatown," she said, "is going up. Everything's more expensive."
I ate my chicken wings while regulars came in and out, hugging the waiters, taking pictures, saying goodbye.
On the wall near my table, a pair of dollar bills read: "Sweetness was here. 69 Bayard 4 ever." It's quite possible that Sweetness is somebody's name, but I prefer to think it refers to the flavor of the place, which is sweet--and warm and friendly. I don't know if there's a word in Chinese for the Yiddish word Haimish, but if there is, it applies to 69 Bayard.
If you'd like to try and stop the bleeding, join #SaveNYC. Help pass the Small Business Survival Act. Let the city know we need protections for our beloved small businesses.