Montreal

Online community group seeks to support Montreal's Asian-owned businesses

Asian businesses struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic have also dealt with incidents of racism and vandalism. Those challenges inspired Local 88, a Facebook group that highlights Asian shops and restaurants and encourages local support.

Local 88 is a Facebook group that highlights Asian shops and restaurants

Cindy Ha runs her family's restaurant, Au 14 Prince-Arthur, in the Plateau. She said help from Local 88 has meant a lot. (CBC)

The pandemic has brought hard times for many businesses, but some Asian owners struggling to stay afloat have also had to deal with incidents of racism and vandalism.

Those challenges inspired Local 88, a Facebook group that highlights Asian shops and restaurants and encourages local support.

The group was started by Laura Luu after she saw that Asian companies were being unfairly targeted. 

"I noticed some businesses that were boycotted because of COVID-19, because the Asian community was associated with the virus," she said. "The goal of Local 88 is to encourage Asian businesses and to get through the pandemic."

Luu told CBC that it's not just businesses, but people too becoming targets of verbal and physical attacks.

"I think people are angry and they look for scapegoat. And that's why they target the Asian community."

Laura Luu created the Facebook group Local 88 after seeing Asian businesses in Montreal suffering. (CBC)

She started Local 88 to change people's perceptions and help drive new customers to struggling shops.

"It's a showcase where some restaurants, some groceries and some caterers can advertise themselves. And some members of the group can also promote all the local business and local restaurants that they like."

For business owners, the group has been more than a symbolic support.

Paying it forward

Cindy Ha, who runs Vietnamese restaurant ​Au 14 Prince-Arthur, said Local 88 has been a blessing.

"The people that are on the page can see what's new on the menu and everything, so it gives us a nice visibility," she said. "The whole restaurant community has been closer together since the pandemic, helping each other out."

Ha has been inspired by the solidarity she's seen and is paying it forward by handing out meals to people living on the streets.

"We decided to create a network between the restaurant community," Ha said. "Every single Sunday we go and distribute all the food we get."

"If everybody does a little bit of their part, together as a community I'm pretty sure that we'll see the light at the end of this tunnel."

With files from Josh Grant

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