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Ottawa Chinatown landmark business Yangtze Restaurant is for sale

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Chinatown’s largest restaurant, the Yangtze, which has offered trolley-service dim sum and hosted wedding receptions and Chinese community celebrations since 1982, was listed for sale this past week with an asking price of $3,280,000.

“Sale of business and property both,” says the listing at realtor.ca. “With excellent location and stable customer base, you will have a steady profit from the time you buy it.”

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When it opened more than four decades ago, the Yangtze brought an upscale Hong Kong-style ambience to a much more modest Chinatown strip. It still stands out as a large, lavish exception, with its green-marble clad exterior, white marble foyer and stairs flanked by two Foo dog statues and spacious dinning rooms with square chandeliers. A bank of windows look over Somerset Street West.

Since its opened, the Yangtze has been owned and operated by the Ng family. No one from the family returned messages requesting an interview.

Yukang Li, executive director of the Somerset Street Chinatown Business Improvement Area, called the Yangtze “an iconic building and business” and “cornerstone” of the Chinese community because it had hosted innumerable milestone celebrations and gatherings.

“If Yangtze were to close, we would not only lose a fine dining place, but also a venue for community events,” Li said.

A 2012 file photo from inside Yangtze Restaurant on Somerset Street West. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

The Yangtze also opened for business on Christmas Days in the past. Kim Ng, the Yangtze’s manager, told this newspaper in 2021 that her restaurant was always busy on Dec. 25 for both dine-in and takeout orders and that many Jewish customers ate Yangtze’s food at Christmas, true to the commonly held stereotype.

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Were it not for the economic challenges persisting in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Yangtze “would sell immediately,” Li ventured. Given inflation, labour shortages and high interest rates, “it may take a bit longer to sell,” he said.

He hoped that any new restaurant taking over the Yangtze’s space would continue to serve authentic Chinese cuisine.

Another large Chinese restaurant that hosted banquets and other gatherings, the Oriental Chu Shing across the street from the Yangtze, closed in 2022. That second-storey space remains vacant. Li said some large Chinese-restaurant brands were approached about taking over the Chu Shing space, but none was interested.

A 2012 file photo shows the bank of windows at Yangtze Restaurant overlooking Somerset Street West. Photo by Ashley Fraser /Postmedia

During the pandemic, Li said, his BIA’s businesses, mostly restaurants, were hit hard.

“We’ve seen restaurants with decades of history close their doors, and those that managed to open operated at reduced hours. This is still the case for some restaurants in Chinatown,” he said.

But now things are improving, he said, noting the arrival in recent months of several new restaurants, including the Korean barbecue restaurant Daldongnae, St. Elsewhere, which serves plant-based dishes, and the Chinese noodles-and-soup eatery Amazing Authentic Artisan Noodles.

“We’re getting more businesses in Chinatown now,” Li said. “The way I see it, it’s on a slow rise.”

phum@postmedia.com

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