After 14 years of service, Asia Express, a Chinese eatery on the bottom floor of the Cesar Chavez Student Center, is fighting to keep its place despite its financial shortcomings.
Frank Meng, owner of Asia Express is rallying employees, patrons and other supporters in an attempt to stop the eviction that will jeopardize his family’s livelihood. The eviction is set for finalization April 1.
The business, which owes $51,411.37 in back rent, attempted to retract the eviction notice and as a result was served a three-day notice March 6 to close on Tuesday.
Meng started a petition to stay in late February that has been signed by more than 1,100 students who he said he provided a valuable service.
“Even during the bad economy, I think of the students,” Meng said. “I haven’t raised my prices in years.”
At this point, Meng is unsure if the petition will be enough to save his business, but hopes that an outpouring of support could turn the tide.
“I don’t have a lot of money,” he said. “I need people to defend me. I don’t know what’s going to happen anymore.”
The petition requests that the Student Center reduce rent, give Asia Express the same opportunities as other restaurants and rescind the eviction notice.
“We need Asian food on this campus,” said computer science major Yanbo Chen, an international student from China. “We have a lot of Asian students on this campus who appreciate it.”
Since April 2010, Meng has only been able to pay half of his $10,000 monthly rent. He attributes his drop in business to the failing economy, the building of the Annex—which he said caused most of his patrons to go to Stonestown Galleria instead—and the establishment of Tuk Tuk Thai and Healthy U, which both serve Asian cuisine.
“They opened new places in 2009 with Thai chicken and other things,” Meng said. “That’s my menu.”
Since Asia Express first ran into financial trouble, various patrons have donated money, but it has not been enough to keep the business afloat.
“People try to help us,” said Meng’s wife Shally. “One person is not enough. They can’t help us on their own.”
The business office staff and Associated Students, Inc., declined to comment on the issue.
In 2010 alone, Asia Express lost $80,000 and the Meng family currently has no back-up plan if they cannot reverse the eviction.
“We’re a small family,” Meng said. “We don’t have a lot of money. My wife and I work 15 hours a day. We don’t know what to do.”
Meng enlisted the help of a lawyer, as did the Student Center; however, Meng doesn’t foresee being able to afford legal help for much longer.
The possibility of losing Asia Express has garnered a wave of letters to the Student Center in support of the eatery’s survival.
“I have been a regular customer at Asia Express for over 10 years,” said systems manager of the SF State library Henok Yared in a letter. “I definitely say it is excellent without exception.”
The last day Asia Express was allowed to continue operation was Tuesday.
Meng will be giving a presentation to ASI today in the Rosa Parks conference room at 2 p.m. and asks that students be present.
“I need help,” Meng said. “I’d like to see students support me so I can stay.”