It’s been a tough year at Lucky’s Golden Phenix in North Park. While many restaurants have scaled down their operations during the pandemic, Lucky hasn’t been able to function at a minimum.
August Wang, a family member of Lucky’s, says he hasn’t been open in any capacity for most of the pandemic because he’s deemed high risk due to his age. Over fears for his own health, he’s only been able to operate a few weeks in October and December. Wang told NBC 7 Lucky is the working force behind his entire restaurant with really no one else to shoulder the work.
“You know it's challenging because he's a one-man shop,” Wang says. “He does everything from waiting tables, taking orders, cooking, bussing the tables, and managing the operations.”
Wang decided to start a GoFundMe page for Lucky, hoping she could help raise some money for him to offset some of the losses. But Thursday night, Lucky decided he didn’t want the money and diverted the funds instead to North Park Diner and CORE, a nonprofit dedicated to providing relief for food service employees with children.
“He knows a lot of people in the community who need it a lot more than he does, and he rather redirect the funds there,” Wang says. “And that’s just Lucky. Anyone who knows Lucky will be like, 'That's a Lucky thing to do.'”
Wang told us Lucky’s Golden Phenix has been around for about 45 years. She told us he came from Hong Kong and was serving Chinese food at the restaurant before deciding to serve up American fare instead. She says it’s imperative to try and keep restaurants like Lucky’s alive, establishments across San Diego that carry cultural significance and have been around for decades.
“The purpose of this campaign is to preserve cultural relevance in San Diego,” Wang says.
Wang says no one will ever know just how old Lucky is, remaining firm he's 37 when patrons ask. As for his restaurant, he goes every day even when it’s been closed through most of the pandemic.
“He just likes hanging out there and loves going next door to the brewery and saying hi to people,” Wang says. “He loves greeting the mailman.”
We reached out to Harry Kim, the restaurant owner of North Park Diner. He had no idea funds were being raised for his business and was moved by the kind gesture, saying Lucky is just that kind of stand-up guy.
“He's a special person,” Kim says. “His mind is really special.”
The GoFundMe page has raised more than $1,000 since Friday night. Wang says it’s capped at $2,000 but says she’s hoping to raise more if it’s feasible.