By Jack Hayes
It’s hard to imagine a precinct in the City of Melbourne hit quite as hard from the unrelenting force of the current global pandemic like the CBD’s Chinatown Precinct.
Business slowed almost to a standstill throughout 2020, a snap lockdown in February this year stymied one of the biggest events on the lunisolar calendar, Chinese New Year, and most recently, plans for Chinatown to act as a focal point for the inaugural Rising Festival were thwarted by another two-week lockdown.
Although that would be enough to quash the spirits of most, the Chinatown Precinct, headed by president, Danny Doon, and vice-president, Eng Lim, used this period to develop an unwaveringly infectious optimism for their precinct and its traders.
“We have always wanted to stay positive and promote all the good things in the precinct, rather than focusing on lockdowns or other events out of our control,” Ms Lim said.
“That is why we are looking ahead to the rest of the year and the exciting events the Chinatown Precinct will be putting on for locals and visitors.”
The first of those events will see the delayed celebration of the Duan Wu, or Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the fifth day of the fifth month on the Chinese calendar.
Initially earmarked for mid-June, the Dragon Boat Festival will be held at Chinatown Square, Cohen Pl, between 12pm and 3pm on Sunday, June 27 and will feature Zongzi (sticky rice dumpling) making demonstrations, a lion dancing performance and an explanation of the history and story of the Dragon Boat Festival.
“The Dragon Boat festival is a national holiday in China and a huge occasion for the precinct,” Ms Lim said.
“Moving forward to August, we are looking to celebrate Chinese Valentine’s Day which occurs on the seventh day of the seventh month on the Chinese calendar, which coincidentally happens to fall on the 14th.”
“Our next major event after that will be the Mid-Autumn Festival on Saturday, September 18. It is one of the most important holidays of the year.”
Along with a number of major events to round out the year, the precinct continue to hold their weekly Chinatown Melbourne Market each Friday and Saturday, from 4pm to 10pm along Heffernan Lane.
From dumplings to noodles, BBQ skewers to desserts, visitors are indulged with the best variety of street food, merchandise, and memorabilia that Melbourne’s Chinatown has to offer.
Parallel to a multitude of planned activations from the precinct, Mr Doon said the injection of business from the council’s 20 per cent “Melbourne Money” rebate scheme had come as a welcomed relief for traders.
The first week of the initiative saw Victorians claim $1 million of the $8.4 million provided by the City of Melbourne and Victorian Government in cash back in a move to return visitors to city’s restaurants, cafes and bars.
“It has been quiet, but we are starting to see a good amount of business on the weekend,” Mr Doon said. “Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we have three sittings allowing for 50 people. So, it has meant we have seen 150 people coming into the restaurant per day.”
“My message to anyone coming is not to wait until next week to get your money back. It is first in, first served.”
It has never been easier, or cheaper, to visit Chinatown Melbourne with the 20 per cent rebate added to a special offer from Golden Square Car Park for $10 flat rate parking.
Monday to Thursday – enter after 4pm exit before midnight, Friday to Saturday – enter after 4pm exit before 6am next day and Sunday – enter after 4pm exit before midnight •