By Ali Bauman

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Restaurants in the Tri-State Area are expanding operations, including in New York City where indoor dining is now allowed at 50% capacity.

As CBS2’s Ali Bauman reports, restaurants in Asian neighborhoods are especially hopeful this brings more business.

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Spring Shabu-Shabu, a hot pot restaurant in Flushing, was bustling for its first night at 50% capacity.

“We’re very hopeful about it,” manager Melissa Pham said. “We’re doing pretty OK so far since we opened.”

In Chinatown, Joshua Gonazalez was taking his sister out for a birthday dinner. Patronizing one of their favorite restaurants is an added bonus.

“I feel like we should support them in any kind of way we can,” Gonzalez said.

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The pandemic has been hard on every restaurant. Some business owners say anti-Asian xenophobia made it especially difficult for restaurants in Chinatown.

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“Chinatown took a hit earlier than most because Asian Americans stopped coming as well as people who were fearful, associating us with Wuhan earlier in the year,” said Wellington Chen with the Chinatown Business Improvement District.

He says the recent rise in anti-Asian hate crimes is deterring customers all over again.

“Ever since the Atlanta shooting, I can tell you the last two days, not counting today, there was a severe drop in foot traffic,” Chen said.

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“Looking right outside, there’s just an increasing number of people that have some fear on their faces. That’s certainly not good for business and that’s not good for the community,” said Lawrence Lau, manager of Buddha Bodai One on Mott Street. “Locals decide to stay home, tourists may take advantage of weekend day time, but the evenings are very quiet.”

Restaurant owners CBS2 spoke to said they’re hopeful the loosened indoor dining restrictions persuade more people to grab a bite in Chinatown.

“Small steps, but they are in the right direction,” Lau said.

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Every extra customer is a sign of encouragement.

Ali Bauman