Restaurants & Bars | June 10, 2020 8:30 am

Mission Chinese Addresses Discrimination Lawsuit, Anti-Racism

Candid words from Danny Bowien

Hulu's "Wu-Tang" Premiere and Reception
A view of signage on display during Hulu's "Wu-Tang: An American Saga" Premiere and Reception at Mission Chinese on September 04, 2019 in New York City.
Lars Niki/Getty Images for Hulu

The last week has been a tumultuous one for the New York City restaurant Mission Chinese. As Serena Dai writes at Eater, the popular restaurant reopened for take-out orders on May 31 after being closed due to the pandemic. At the time, the restaurant noted on its Instagram that sales from that night would be donated to Black Lives Matter.

That decision brought back memories for some of the lawsuit filed against the restaurant in 2017. The lawsuit contended that the work environment at the restaurant was a hostile one, and that discrimination abounded there. As Dai’s report at Eater notes, the lawsuit has since been settled — but the issues that it raised haven’t gone away.

Owner Danny Bowien addressed these issues two days ago, both in a post on Instagram and via an interview with Eater.

“This industry is built on a system that is inherently racist and we acknowledge with the rest of the world that doing the bare minimum is no longer acceptable,” Bowien wrote.

In Bowien’s conversation with Eater, he spoke about the lawsuit and its aftermath candidly, and with what sounds like regret about his handling of certain matters:

I’ve never really spoken publicly about what happened, or the steps we’ve taken to move beyond what it was like three years ago. Complicit, or not complicit, compliance isn’t enough. We weren’t doing anything to be anti-racist. We were doing everything we could to be compliant as a business. We weren’t checking in with our team and our staff. It was scary. People didn’t feel like they could talk to us.

He also addressed the question of donating proceeds, and spoke with praise about the decision that Superiority Burger made to donate proceeds from their most profitable day to charity. “It’s taken so much to reopen,” Bowien said. “It’s a scramble.”

It’s uncharted territory for a lot of restaurant owners right now. Hopefully Bowien’s comments about transparency will lead to change for the better.

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