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Chinatown is an area and ethnic enclave in Central London, in the City of Westminster, occupying the area in and around Gerrard Street. It contains a number of Chinese restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, souvenir shops, and other Chinese-run businesses.
The first area in London known as Chinatown was located in the Limehouse area of the East End of London. At the start of the 20th century, the Chinese population of London was concentrated in that area, setting up businesses which catered to the Chinese sailors who frequented in Docklands. The area began to become known through exaggerated reports and tales of (legal) opium dens and slum housing, rather than the Chinese restaurants and supermarkets in the current Chinatown. However, much of the area was damaged by aerial bombing during the Blitz in the Second World War, although a number of elderly Chinese still choose to live in this area.
After the Second World War, however, the growing popularity of Chinese cuisine and an influx of immigrants from Hong Kong led to an increasing number of Chinese restaurants being opened elsewhere.
The present Chinatown, off Shaftesbury Avenue did not start to be established until the 1970s. Up until then, it was a regular Soho area, run-down, with Gerrard Street the main thoroughfare. It was dominated by the Post Office, facing Macclesfield Street, and other major establishments were The Tailor & Cutter House, at 43/44, now a Chinese supermarket and restaurant, the Boulougne Restaurant, near the Wardour Street end, and by Peter Mario's Restaurant at the other end. Other businesses included a master baker's, the Sari Centre, Lesgrain French Coffee House, an Indian restaurant and lots of doorways offering French Lessons and suchlike. Probably the first Chinese restaurants opened in Lisle Street, parallel to Gerrard St, and then spread gradually. The Tailor & Cutter did not close down until around 1974.
In 2005, the property developer Rosewheel proposed a plan to redevelop the eastern part of Chinatown. The plan was opposed by many of the existing retailers in Chinatown, as they believe that the redevelopment will drive out the traditional Chinese retail stores from the area and change the ethnic characteristic of Chinatown.
London's Chinatown is a commercial area; very few people actually live there. There is a large residential block called Vale Royal House which houses a number of families, professionals and single men and women. This block was built in the 1980s and is made famous by housing the China Town car park undereath it.
Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club started in [errard Street in the basement of No. 39.
Samuel Johnson and Joshua Reynolds met at the Turk's Head Tavern to found The Club dining club in 1764. The site is commemorated by a plaque at No. 9.
A basement in Gerrard Street was the location of the first ever rehearsal of Led Zeppelin in 1968, where they played "Train Kept a Rollin". The exact location of the basement is unknown, and is believed to have been converted into a business premises many years ago.
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