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Pandemic closes Shanghai Mama's after 20 years of late-night service

Owner hoping to reopen at new location
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Posted at 4:37 PM, Oct 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-02 19:48:22-04

CINCINNATI — As many struggle for the eighth month in a row to keep their jobs and businesses amid a pandemic, Cincinnati may have lost one of its most popular restaurants downtown this week.

Shanghai Mama's has been downtown for 20 years. It’s so popular it would often stay open until 3:00 a.m. But now, the building is sold, the owner is out and his long-time employees are laid off, trying to land on their feet during a pandemic.

Alex Chin is the owner. He said he was planning to move to a new location at 7th and Elm at the beginning of the year because the Sixth Street building is changing.

Then the pandemic hit.

“It's sad. But life goes on. We just have to face reality, we just have to have our own courage,” Chin said. "We've been losing money the whole time."

Chin said profits fell as low as 70%, then move-out plans stalled. He had to let go of his six employees Wednesday.

“Unfortunately, we are in a very bad, low situation,” Chin said. “I think we haven't hit the bottom yet.”

At last count, more than 90,000 people are unemployed in Cincinnati, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job and Family Services said nearly 18,000 people filed jobless claims last week. Since the start of the pandemic shutdowns, more than 1.7 million Ohioans have lost their jobs. According to Yelp, more than 750 businesses have closed in Cincinnati since the beginning of the pandemic.

Chin said getting a bank loan during the pandemic has been unsuccessful. Chin's family has stepped in and is calling on fans of the late-night spot to donate. So far, they have raised more than $6,000 in two days.

"It feels good. I feel very fortunate,” Chin said.

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Shanghai Mamas has been downtown for 20 years. It’s so popular it would often stay open until 3:00 a.m., but now, the building is sold, the owner is out and his long-time employees are laid off, trying to land on their feet during a pandemic.

The money will go to continue construction at Shanghai Mama’s new spot, and to ensure the employees can survive the layoff.

Chin’s goal is to open by Thanksgiving, or the first of December.

"I'm definitely going to fight, and I think I’m winning!"