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Chop Chop Chinaman, The Controversial Local Restaurant, Closed For Now

By Ariel Cheung | June 5, 2015 3:07pm | Updated on June 8, 2015 12:55pm
 Chop Chop Chinaman, 3343 N. Halsted St., has remained dark for the past week, with the ATM safe apparently removed.
Chop Chop Chinaman, 3343 N. Halsted St., has remained dark for the past week, with the ATM safe apparently removed.
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DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung

BOYSTOWN — A restaurant whose controversial name led to outrage that landed one woman in jail has remained dark for the past week.

Chop Chop Chinaman, 3343 N. Halsted St., has been closed for several days just four months after opening. Multiple calls to the restaurant were not returned, but the Chicago Tribune reported Sunday that owner Larry Lee said the restaurant closed temporarily. He said he is hoping to reopen after finding an investor.

“[Business] hasn’t declined, it hasn’t been better or worse, but it hasn’t picked up to the level it should have,” Lee told the Tribune.

In March, the restaurant came under fire after Jeannie Harrell, upset by the use of "Chinaman" in the restaurant's name, scrawled a message in lipstick on the restaurant's window, under a logo depicting a figure wearing a pointed hat drawing a cart.

"F--- this hate crime s---," she wrote, with an arrow pointing to the logo. "It's 2015."

Harrell posted a photo of her message on Twitter, which prompted Lee to call the police. Harrell was arrested and charged with misdemeanor criminal damage to property. She returns to court June 9.

Lee, who is Chinese, said he felt the name was no more offensive than being called an Englishman or Irishman and wanted his food to speak for itself.

On Yelp, Chop Chop Chinaman has 1-1/2 stars, and while some customers said they appreciated the generous portions, others slammed the restaurant for poor service and unauthentic Szechwan.

"To me, the name is not offensive, but everything else is ... especially when I grew up in the southern area in China right next to Szechwan and have similar food and taste. First thing I saw was crab rangoon, then classic fried chicken, hunnan beef, and all that non-Szechwanese-related stuff. Like they have nothing from that region. Let me be just be clear that just because one's Chinese doesn't mean they can cook good Chinese food," wrote Yelp reviewer Leo S.

More than 20 additional reviews are flagged by Yelp as "not recommended," half of which were teeming with positive feedback. As an anonymous Imgur post noted, some of the posts appeared to be fake.

While the word "Chinaman" can be used merely to refer to a person of Chinese descent, the word has a contentious history. Negative connotations arose in the late 1800s with the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 and subsequent discrimination against Asian workers. Most dictionaries now describe the word as derogatory, although it is not considered as severe a slur as other words.

A 1998 episode of "Seinfeld" was later edited to omit a reference to opium as "the Chinaman's nightcap" when it was deemed racially insensitive. In 2001, the Chicago Sun-Times was criticized for using the term in two columns.

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