ABC Sydney News, 11 Jan 2024 – Sydney’s Chinatown to be revitalised as local businesses bounce back from COVID

January 17, 2024

Last week, there was a story by Lydia Feng on ABC Sydney’s 7 pm news bulletin on the City of Sydney’s Haymarket and Chinatown Revitalisation Strategy.

Here is the link to that news item which has been well received by the Haymarket community.


By Lydia Feng, ABC News Sydney

William Wu has fond memories of dining in Sydney’s Chinatown as a child.

Now the 22-year-old is heading up his own restaurant in the historic precinct as the area rebounds from years of pandemic restrictions and light rail construction.

Along with his mother Wei Sun, Mr Wu opened 600-seat Cantonese restaurant Royal Palace Seafood Restaurant in August.

“A lot of people are very excited for us to open at this location,” Mr Wu said.

[A young man and his mother stand next to each other inside a restaurant.

William Wu with his mother Sun Wei are the owners of the Royal Palace Seafood Restaurant. (ABC News: Greg Bigelow)]

The eatery sits on the site of Golden Century, which shut its doors in 2021 after 32 years in operation.

It was one of many Chinatown institutions such as Marigold, Zilver and BBQ King, to close during the pandemic.

Two years on, the restaurant is bustling as a revitalisation of the area gets underway.

While the site has been refurbished, Mr Wu said some things have stayed the same.

“This is an iconic location in Chinatown and we’ve continued the tradition of keeping the live seafood tanks filled with fresh pipis, live lobster, crab and more.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a space where our guests can come together and savour authentic Cantonese cuisine but also immerse themselves in the rich traditions of Chinese culture.”

Outside in Haymarket, there are also signs Chinatown is making a comeback.

Haymarket Chamber of Commerce president Vincent Lim said the area was improving after it was pushed to the brink by COVID-19, and years of construction in the surrounding area.

Massive revitalisation plans

Mr Lim said the return of international students, tourists and office workers into the CBD had also helped buoy trade.

“Chinatown is now quite vibrant and businesses are generally doing quite well,” he said.

[A man wearing a grey suit and lavender tie and shirt stands in front of a Chinese paifang and restaurants.

Vincent Lim, Haymarket Chamber of Commerce President, stands right outside the Chinese paifang in Sydney’s Chinatown. (ABC News: Andrew Whitington)]

Mr Lim points to a recently approved $44 million City of Sydney Council plan to revamp Haymarket as key to securing the area’s long-term future.

“We hope the funding will be able to transform the area not just from the ability to open up more shops and restaurants but also from a cultural heritage perspective,” he said.

“We will be able to use the money to promote the area’s rich history and cultural significance.”

“We have one of the best Chinatowns in the world but we’re going to make it better.”

Under the council’s proposal, there will be more creative lighting, outdoor seating, trees and walkways across the district.

Chinatown’s ceremonial gates will get a face lift with restoration to begin from mid-year.

Grants will also be offered to upgrade tired shopfronts along Dixon Street.

City of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore said she wanted to see the success of the George Street revamp replicated in Haymarket.

“One of the catalysts for this work was we finished the work in George St and after all that paving, planting and seating, it’s absolutely buzzing,” she said.

“So it’s a logical flow-on that they move down here into Sussex Street.”

She said preserving the area’s cultural heritage is also vital for the city.

“This is where the Chinese settled in Sydney very early on and started their businesses. There is great history here and we want to bring that to life again.”

Back at Mr Wu’s restaurant, the kitchen is in full swing, the yum cha trolleys are packed with dim sums and the dining floor is abuzz.

He’s confident his restaurant and the area has a bright future.

“It’s good to bring some fresh life into Chinatown.”