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'Chinese [restaurants] don't need any money' | Norfolk city councilman gets heated over small business aid

Paul Riddick from Ward 4 said Chinese restaurants "have been making money hand over fist," "don't give back," and COVID-19 aid would better serve black businesses.

NORFOLK, Va. — In a Norfolk City Council work session on June 2, Councilman Paul Riddick (Ward 4) said COVID-19 aid would serve black businesses better than it would Chinese businesses.

Jared Chalk, Norfolk's Interim Director of Development, had been talking about how the city was reaching out to businesses that might experience a language barrier when applying for COVID-19 aid. 

"As we were doing our outreach calls, there was a business in Chesapeake, a Chinese restaurant that was targeted," Chalk said. "We had our staff meeting and we decided that day, we were going to call every Chinese restaurant in Norfolk, and make sure that they know that we're here to help them."

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Riddick then requested to speak. 

"Jared was talking about calling every Chinese restaurant in Norfolk? Chinese [restaurants] don't need any money," he said. "They're making money hand over fist, and they always have been. They don't hire blacks, and they don't give anything back to the community."

Riddick, who is black, said he'd passed Chinese restaurants and saw them "making a dime" selling crabs and other foods.

"Instead of calling every Chinese restaurant in Norfolk, beat the bushes, and find every small black [restaurant]," he said.

"You wonder why blacks burn down these cities. It's because we're in a position to help, but we don't do anything!" Riddick said. "And this is what's happening in Norfolk. We don't do anything to help the small, black business."

During the city council meeting Councilman Tommy Smigiel responded by saying "Mr.Riddick, I'm really upset with your comments that you made about Chinese families."

In a one-on-one interview with 13News Now on Thursday, Riddick said, "It has nothing to do with prejudice. It only has to do with one thing, is that Chinese have made a lot of money enough at any majority of that money they've made off of black folks."

Riddick said his comments came from personal experience in the city where he grew up and that the black community makes up most of the customers at Chinese restaurants.

Riddick said because of that, he thinks Chinese restaurants haven't struggled financially during the coronavirus pandemic.

13News Now asked, "How about those ones that ended up closing?"

Riddick replied, "They made a lot of money in the past and they don't get hurt."

He said he wants the city to do more for small black businesses. He said that includes councilmembers and the director of economic development. 

"Tell me you've called all of the small black restaurants," said Riddick.

You can watch the interaction on the City Council's YouTube recording of the meeting, starting around 1 hour and 22 minutes in:

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