Dining With Denise Neil

Family, customers mourning sudden death of longtime Wichita restaurant owner

Andy Liao, right, died suddenly in May. Now, his family is closing the restaurant he started in 2005.
Andy Liao, right, died suddenly in May. Now, his family is closing the restaurant he started in 2005.

The family and customers of a longtime Wichita restaurant owner are mourning his death at age 54.

Andy Liao, who opened Beijing Bistro at 11309 E. Kellogg in 2005, began having chest pain and trouble breathing after he and his wife got home from working at the restaurant on Mother's Day, said his daughter, Lu-May Liao. Later that night, his family took him to the hospital, where he collapsed and died in the waiting room. Doctors are still trying to determine the cause of death, Lu-May said.

Liao's family, which includes his wife, Melody, three children and two brothers who each run their own Beijing Bistro restaurants in the area, are still trying to accept that he's gone, Lu-May said.

"It was very sudden and unexpected," she said. "He didn't have any major health problems, so we did not see this coming at all."

Lu-May said her parents emigrated to the United States from Taipei, Taiwan, in the early 1990s. His father started the first Beijing Bistro in Augusta in the early 1990s, and his sons expanded with their own restaurants. One of Liao's brothers still runs the Augusta restaurant, and another runs the Beijing Bistro in El Dorado.

Liao's restaurant opened in a brand-new strip center in 2005 and has many upscale touches. He was proud of it, and he worked hard, said Lu-May, 25, who is in the accelerated nursing program at MidAmerica Nazarene University.

"He dedicated his life to the restaurant business, and it's hard because sometimes you're not there and are busy with work and don't come home often to see your kids or spend time with them," Lu-May said. "But he took really good care of us. He loved his family more than anything. He was very selfless and gave up a lot for us."

Lu-May said that all of the family worked in the restaurant, including her younger sister, Lu-Ling, 24, and her younger brother, Anthony, in his teens.

They closed the restaurant after Andy's death but reopened on Saturday. The family plans to keep the restaurant running, Lu-May said.

"We want to try because it was his dream, and we want to keep his dream alive," she said.

Plus, she said, the restaurant is filled with good memories, many of which the restaurant's customers share. Lu-May said the family has been comforted by words of support and prayers from customers.

"He loved socializing and interacting with the customers," Lu-May said. "He wanted to get to know them as well. He had a lot of friends."

Beijing Bistro will be closed on Thursday and Friday so that Liao's family can attend his funeral services, but it will reopen on Saturday.

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