Four Asian-owned restaurants were looted and vandalized in Howard County late Thursday night, just as the Lunar New Year began. Cash and safes were stolen from Urban Hot Pot, Kung Fu Tea, and Bonchon in the Columbia Mall as well as East Moon Asian Bistro in Ellicott City. A Corner Bakery and Coal Fire Pizza in the vicinity were also broken into, but neither reported anything stolen. Howard County Police say they’re investigating whether the crimes are related.
“Detectives suspect this is part of a larger series of burglaries in the region in which the businesses were not all Asian-owned. But we are considering every possibility as we investigate these six cases from last week,” Howard County police spokesperson Sherry Llewellyn says in an email to Washingtonian.
Nonetheless, the timing made the burglaries feel targeted to the Asian owners of these businesses—especially as hateful attacks on Asian-Americans spike nationwide.
“We are deeply saddened that during these difficult times our community is filled with such hatred and division. As an Asian American establishment, the fact that these attacks came on Lunar New Year, such a celebrated time of year for us, is heartbreaking,” the franchise owners of the Kung Fu Tea and Bonchon locations wrote in an Instagram post. They opted not to release security video “because it will only be more damaging to the community.”
Instead, they’ve started a GoFundMe page to raise money for Stop AAPI Hate, an organization that provides assistance to hate crime victims and advocates for protections for Asian American Pacific Islander communities. As of Tuesday, they’d raised more than $6,000. Kung Fu Tea and Bonchon in Columbia will also donate 10 percent of their February sales to the cause.
The owners of Urban Hot Pot and Bonchon/Kung Fu Tea did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but we will update this story when we hear back.