Ha Long Bay reopening can’t come soon enough for fans

August 28, 2018

Fans of Ha Long Bay, the popular Vietnamese and Thai restaurant on Willy Street, are growing increasingly anxious for it to reopen after a car ran into the building four months ago and caused major damage.

“I actually expected to open a couple of months ago, but it just goes on and on,” said Jean Tran, 56, who has owned the business at 1353 Williamson St., with her husband Christopher Tran, 59, for nine years. It initially opened June 1, 2009.

Tran originally thought they’d be able to reopen in mid-June, but is now shooting for the first week of September “for sure.”

She said the reconstruction is taking a long time because it’s a historical building, and the work needed to go through a time-consuming city approval process.

Many people have been quizzing workers on when the restaurant will reopen, Tran said. “We often hear from the construction company that is repairing for us -- they said they’ve never seen so many people stop asking when we will open.”

Wendy Hoang, Tran’s niece, who works in the restaurant’s kitchen and sometimes hosts, said Ha Long Bay got a warm welcome at Yum Yum Fest, a food festival held by the Madison Area Chef’s Network, on Aug. 19.

People were so hungry for it, Ha Long Bay sold out of food in three hours. “I would say every other person was asking ‘When are you going to open? Like how soon?’ I think everyone was just really excited to kind of see us in the community again, even for just a day,” Hoang said.

During the closure, Tran has taken the opportunity to get a new exhaust fan and repaint the kitchen. She also took some statues and other decorations out of the front area to open up more waiting space. She plans to put in a bench where customers can wait for a table.

The building, which Tran bought Dec. 31 2009, was struck by a SUV at 3 p.m. on Friday, May 4. The police report quotes the driver as saying he had a seizure causing him to blackout just before he hit the building.

The crash caused no serious injuries, but triggered a partial collapse of the building’s facade. The building, at the intersection of Dickinson Street, also houses Willaby’s Cafe next door and Capitol City Tattoo next to that. Tran is the landlord for those two businesses.

“I never expected that we were going to be closed for so long,” Tran said about the interruption. “When the accident happened, I thought it’s just going to take us a few weeks and we will reopen.”

Tran, who usually has six people in the kitchen cooking, said her restaurant has been successful because of the effort she puts in. “I’m in the kitchen a lot and I really care. I’m really picky about what we’re cooking. I don’t just let go of my kitchen. I’m there every day and trying to do my best.”

Added Hoang, “I think my aunt and everyone else who works at Ha Long Bay just wants to say that we’re really excited to reopen for the community again, especially since we haven’t been able to all summer.

“It was nice to see everyone at Yum, Yum. And we’re excited to see them again when we reopen permanently.”

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