A small hutong restaurant triumphs over epidemic setbacks

(Xinhua) 11:23, March 02, 2023

BEIJING, March 1 (Xinhua) -- Nestled within the maze of hutong alleys in Beijing's Dongcheng District, a small, unassuming restaurant drew a steady stream of customers even on a regular Monday morning in February.

Guo Hua, owner of the Yuebin Restaurant, was visibly impressed to see snaking queues outside the doors of the eatery. Dubbed the country's first private restaurant after China's reform and opening up in the late 1970s, this hidden gem has managed to capture the hearts and taste buds of those who seek out its delectable offerings despite its humble appearance.

"We would normally see our first batch of customers after 11:30 a.m.. It's our first day of business after the Spring Festival, and I didn't anticipate having so many people early in the morning," Guo said.

The restaurant's interior spans more than 40 square meters and accommodates 11 dining tables, which makes the space feel slightly cramped. The walls are adorned with old photos of the elder generations of restaurant owners.

During lunchtime, the place was swarming with customers eagerly waiting to try its specialty dishes that have been passed down for decades. The restaurant's famous fried meatballs and sweet and sour pork ribs were served on tables, adding to the lively atmosphere.

Yuebin Restaurant first opened in 1980. To preserve the memory of the old days, the restaurant has retained its old facade and name. Over the past 43 years, guests from far and wide have come here to taste traditional Beijing dishes and feel the pulse of the times.

Over the last three years, Yuebin Restaurant, like many other small businesses, has been impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic, suspending and reopening businesses several times.

Fortunately, Guo received support from both the government and regular customers.

"We were very concerned to see the businesses of stores and restaurants being affected. We tried our best to find ways to let everyone return to work and stop losses as soon as possible," said Liu Xiaolong, an official with the community branch of the district's market supervision bureau.

Tax reductions and exemptions constitute an important part of government support. "At the critical moment, the government support helped us weather the challenges," Guo said. "The fact that customers have been thinking about our restaurant is a source of encouragement for us to keep going."

Guo renovated the restaurant around the Spring Festival this year. She said she had received many phone calls during the holiday from her regular customers and friends who were eagerly waiting to dine at their favorite restaurant.

Upon learning about the reopening of Yuebin Restaurant, Wang Mingyao, a regular customer for over 30 years, promptly made a reservation with friends to gather at the restaurant.

"We have known the restaurant for decades. The taste of the food and the aura remain unchanged. We hope that the restaurant will continue to thrive," Wang said.

"On the first day of reopening, everything went smoothly, and the restaurant was once again bustling with activity," Guo said.

Guo also took a picture with all the staffers in front of the restaurant on that day as it marked "the beginning of the new phase of Yuebin Restaurant."

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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