YouTuber Xiaomanyc explains why he spent $5K in tips at NYC Chinatown restaurants

Josh Marcus
·2 min read
<p>NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 13:  An empty restaurant stands in New York's Chinatown on February 13, 2020 in New York City. Gregg Bishop, commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services in New York, has said that revenues are down around  40% in Chinatown as fears continue over the coronavirus. There are no confirmed coronavirus cases in New York City and the city is urging people to visit Chinatown to shop and dine. </p> ((Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images))

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 13: An empty restaurant stands in New York's Chinatown on February 13, 2020 in New York City. Gregg Bishop, commissioner of the Department of Small Business Services in New York, has said that revenues are down around 40% in Chinatown as fears continue over the coronavirus. There are no confirmed coronavirus cases in New York City and the city is urging people to visit Chinatown to shop and dine.

((Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images))

Arieh Smith, better known as the YouTuber Xiaomanyc, has gone viral for handing out five $1000 tips to show his appreciation for beleaguered Chinatown restaurants in New York City suffering poor business during the pandemic.

“They’re so close,” Mr Smith told the New York Post. “I can taste this recovery coming back, but it would be such a shame if now these restaurants were forced to close or lay off employees.”

The gesture certainly got attention. The clip has nearly 2 million views since being published on Thursday.

The vlogger, whose channel focuses on Chinese language and culture, first became interested in China during an immersion program in Beijing in college, and says in the video he wanted to help out these struggling neighbourhood institutions, which often operated on ever slimmer margins than their counterparts in the notoriously tough restaurant industry.

“Not only do they provide great food to the people in the neighbourhood, but they also support a lot of employees and they’re all family run, and they’re just really amazing and great people,” Mr Smith says at the opening of the video. “I’m just helping them out in whatever small way I can.”

The online learning company Skillshare sponsored the video.

In the clip, many of the restaurateurs are overwhelmed by the tips, delivered in traditional red envelopes for Chinese New Year, and share how they’ve been struggling during the pandemic.

“I hope we get this pandemic over with soon,” an employee at Manhattan’s Spicy Village tells Mr Smith. “We can really only survive if we get back to indoor dining, otherwise we can’t cover our expenses. We’re just hanging in there honestly.”

Chinatowns around the country have been struggling with a related set of crises. The pandemic has tanked businesses like restaurants, common in Chinatowns, that depend on indoor traffic. What’s more, community leaders say racism and xenophobia has made business even worse, as some customers follow Donald Trump’s lead and brand the coronavirus the “China virus.”

Things have gotten so out of hand that Asian communities say they’re suffering increasing hate crimes and violence during the pandemic. Data on the issue is lacking, but New York and San Francisco both experienced upticks in hate crimes against Asian-Americans https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2021/02/25/asian-hate-crime-attack-patrol/?arc404=true.

Food has been central to the activism around supporting Chinatowns during the pandemic, such as cookbook author and activist Grace Young’s efforts to promote restaurants in New York’s Chinatowns.

Asians in the US have suffered disproportionately under the coronavirus compared with other races and ethnicities.

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