Merchants in San Francisco Chinatown say businesses are hurting after dark. The vibrancy that a healthy nightlife once brought to area is gone.
But people who live or work in this area have come up with a new strategy to revitalize the area at night.
They say one way to attract people here are new red lanterns that are literally lighting the way to Chinatown.
On Friday night, a lion dance started the lantern lighting ceremony in one of Chnatown's most famous alley ways--Waverly Place.
"We want the lanterns there for the ambiance and at the same time, it gives it more light at night too," says Laura Li who is among the four people who came up with the lantern idea. She was born and raised in Chinatown. She works at the printing shop her parents own on Waverly Place.
"Who wants to walk in an alleyway that's creepy, dark and dim?" says Li.
Chinatown of a few decades ago saw restaurants open into the wee hours of the morning. Now, few are open beyond 9 p.m.
Utopia Cafe recently cut its hours, closing at 7:30 p.m.
The co-owner says business is slow in part because there is stiff competition in other neighborhoods
There's been a gradual shift away from San Francisco Chinatown after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake
"When they tore down the Embarcadero Freeway. people didn't drive in. Then they ended up going to the Richmond, or the Sunset or down to Fremont, and Oakland . There's a lot of other Chinatowns. They don't have to come here," says Calvin Louie with Utopia Cafe.
The owners of The Boiling Shrimp say it's difficult to stay in business. They say it's slow after 3 p.m.
They hope their street, now lit by lanterns, will attract foot traffic.
"More customers come in and safety, beautiful," says Amy Li, who owns The Boiling Shrimp with her husband.
Several locals tell KTVU they'd come to Chinatown more if it offered a nightlife.
"More people always draws other people," says Anna Kenney of Oakland who says she enjoys visiting Chinatown.
This revitalization campaign is called 'Be Chinatown San Francisco'. Organizers say Waverly Place is only the beginning.
"It's sad to see it like this. I used to enjoy walking around Chinatown,' says Li who hopes to see her neighborhood vibrant at night once again.
Merchants want to eventually illuminate all the alleyways in Chinatown along with some of the buildings.
Supporters say this project is funded by donations.