SF’s China Live still owes $3.4 million in rent, landlord alleges


San Francisco’s China Live restaurant remains at risk of eviction following a new lawsuit filed by its landlord this week.

Building owner and landlord, 644 Broadway, LLC — which is under the Cypress Properties Group umbrella — filed an unlawful detainer complaint on Wednesday alleging that the San Francisco restaurant, located at 644 Broadway, still owes $3.4 million in rent as of May, court documents show. The San Francisco Business Times first reported the story.  

According to this week’s court filings, 644 Broadway is demanding that China Live pay the remaining $3.4 million sum or face eviction. SFGATE reached out to both China Live and Cypress Properties Group for comment but did not hear back by publication.

Chef-owner George Chen told the Business Times that he was hopeful he and his landlord could come to an agreement but shared that he is also prepared to leave the massive space depending on how things transpire.

“We are happy to pay the market rate plus — whatever the plus is — and have them renew a long term lease and create a tenancy for us so that we can survive,” Chen told the Business Times. “But if they’re not reasonable, we will shut down and go elsewhere, because we can’t survive long term.”

The entry at China Live in San Francisco on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. 

Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The current rent backlog is a dip from the previous $4.2 million China Live allegedly owed when its landlord first filed an unlawful detainer in January. In those court filings, 644 Broadway said that China Live received millions of dollars in Paycheck Protection Program loans but did not use them “for the specific purpose of assisting with the payment of rent,” as previously reported by SFGATE.

In March, Terry Mollica, an attorney for 644 Broadway, told the San Francisco Chronicle that his client “voluntarily” dismissed the eviction threat but did not share further details. He added, “We are still trying to get the tenant to pay the rent.” (The Chronicle and SFGATE are both owned by Hearst but have separate newsrooms.)

China Live opened with much anticipation at the three-story Chinatown building back in 2017. According to a previous San Francisco Chronicle report, construction for Chen’s massive emporium began in 2013 and had a $20 million price tag. Court documents filed Wednesday show that Chen’s monthly rent is currently $163,308.29.

During the pandemic, Chen received $2 million in PPP loans and told the Business Times that he “paid every month rent except [during] the moratorium period of 18 months.” He added that the current accumulated charge is “completely under dispute.”


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