The fate of the legendary Hua Yuant hangs in the balance as Chinatown’s construction files go bankrupt
The restaurant where the late Shorty Tang and his famous sesame noodles started, Hua Yuan at 42 East Broadway, on Catherine Street in Chinatown, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Oct. 30 filing aims to stop a foreclosure on the restaurant that was scheduled for Nov. 1 2023. Listed as QY Tang’s Hwa Yuan LLC, it is owned by Chen Lieh Tang, the 71-year-old son of the late Shorty Tang. Who owes about $12 million on the property, according to the petition filed in Manhattan. The restaurant remains open.
Shorty Tang arrived in New York in 1963 and introduced New Yorkers to Sichuan-style sesame noodles, with the recipe being imitated throughout the city. The original location of the Hwa Yuan Szechuan Inn opened at 40 East Broadway in Chinatown in 1971; Tang died in 1976. The restaurant closed in the 1980s. The family purchased the property at No. 42 on East Broadway, where Hua Yuan now resides, after his death in 1979.
Chen Lieh Tang, who filed Chapter 11 last month, ran several restaurants before retiring in 2012, spending time in China, New York and Taiwan. The New York Times It was reported in 2017. He eventually decided to return to the restaurant business, opening Shorty Tang in Chelsea. This restaurant was followed by the return of Hua Yuan on the same street as the original restaurant, in 2017, with a 250-seat dining room and 14 karaoke rooms upstairs in the former Bank of China building.
The building’s financial problems began long before Hua Yuan’s new location opened, according to the affidavit. In 2012, the Bank of China broke the lease and vacated the building due to US banking regulations, allegedly “limiting the number of foreign branches it is allowed to operate in.” Once he left, Chen Lih Tang was allegedly unable to find another banking tenant in the wake of the 2008 Great Recession.
Plan B was to revive Shorty Tang’s legacy. “His many signature dishes include cold sesame noodles, a dish that has become ubiquitous, but rarely prepared in a manner worthy of his creativity,” Chen Lih Tang wrote in his affidavit. So he decided to “convert the space to accommodate an elegant restaurant where I could present my vision to the dining public,” as well as build the top two floors into a karaoke bar featuring 14 separate rooms, each with its own bathroom. Music, microphones and screens.
During construction, Chen Litang contributed $10 million of his own money to build Hua Yuan, he wrote in the affidavit, and with delays and obstacles in rebuilding, they had to find a new lender and take on additional responsibility. According to the affidavit, the debt amounted to $7.35 million.
Hua Yuan received many accolades when it reopened in 2017. “The place is opulent, with a vague Art Deco elegance,” critic Robert Sietsma wrote about the place, calling the sesame noodles “exquisite” and noting the menu paired with “old chestnuts.” . With “a sprinkling of the most modern Sichuan dishes.”
In 2020, when the coronavirus hit, the restaurant’s business was devastated, as takeout accounted for just five percent of the building’s original pre-coronavirus profits, according to the affidavit. However, once indoor dining took off, it remained a culinary icon. “When former Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the return of indoor dining in New York City, he did so at Hua Yuan along with several other notable figures,” Tang wrote in File.
A notice of default was issued in February 2020 by the lender, Owemanco Mortgage Limited Partnership, and foreclosure proceedings ensued. As of March 1, 2023, the debt was recorded at $11,993,345.80. In the filing, Chen-Lih Tang noted that he had tried to refinance the loans — which were still in progress — and that while he owned other properties, including CLT 53 Real Estate Inc. and 243 Third Ave. Associates (98 Eighth Avenue), liquidating them is a bit complicated since they are co-owned with his wife, Margaret Chiang. One of them, at 236 E. 53rd Street, is on the market for $11.9 million.
The purpose of filing Chapter 11 was as a last resort, Chen-Lih Tang wrote in the affidavit. “We have informed the lender’s advisor of this and have requested that the sale date be postponed to allow the loan to close.” This request was denied.
If the loan doesn’t go through, Chen-Lih Tang wrote in the affidavit, the restaurant “will move forward with alternatives,” and “the revenues now being generated and expected to be generated from the restaurant and karaoke bar will be sufficient to pay.” From the lender.” In addition, if the loan is not implemented, the sale of the property on 53rd Street “will allow for additional options.” He continues, “It is hoped that the lender will cooperate in this endeavor, which is also in its interest.”
Eater reached out to Chen-Lih Tang as well as his attorney, David Wollnerman of the White & Wollnerman law firm. The restaurant and karaoke bar remain open.