High Street Place, one of Boston’s newest food halls, opened downtown in March. With it came Fuji at High Street Place, one of the latest ventures from Jimmy Liang, head of JP Fuji Group.

“It's just an amazing experience,” Liang said on Boston Public Radio Monday. “You can walk in there, you can try a lot of different things and the environment’s great. We have live DJs on the weekends, we do events.”

Liang grew up in Quincy, and started working as a dishwasher in a sushi restaurant at 14. Despite warnings from his family, who also worked in the restaurant industry, Liang started Fuji at 19. A lot has changed since then.

“When I first started, there was maybe like 10 Japanese restaurants in and around Massachusetts,” he said. “Today, there are thousands.”

As one of the largest pan-Asian restaurant groups in the Northeast, JP Fuji Group has nine restaurants in Greater Boston. Still, Liang hasn’t been protected from the industry’s turmoil during the pandemic, from shutdowns to staffing shortages, and he’s been forced him to shorten hours at his restaurants.

“I myself have faced a lot of hardships in hiring people,” Liang said. “Before the pandemic, I had about 600 staffers, and right now, I’m at about 450.”

Liang holds out hope for a return to normal. “I think once people's comfort level returns, I think everything will go back out there,” he said. “I think we as humans, we need to socialize, we need that physical touch, we need that face time.”

Another change may come to the local restaurant scene: happy hours. Outlawed for the past 40 years, the state Senate recently passed a bill that would reverse the ban on happy hour drink promotions, which needs to be negotiated with the House and get past a “happy hour”-hesitant Gov. Charlie Baker.

“Will I be participating in this? Probably not,” Liang said, explaining that his restaurants are already busy and he does not want to overload the staff. “When I was younger, my restaurants were a little bit more of a party scene, I guess. But as I grew, as I’ve aged, my restaurants are a little bit more tamer.”

For his next project? Liang said he’s working on opening a French Asian bakery.

In addition to serving food, Liang said he tries to support his employees who are immigrants just getting started in the United States. One student he worked with told him he’s well known in Taishan, China, where Liang’s family is from.

“We have a lot of Taishanese that come to Massachusetts, new immigrants, and their first off job is with us,” Liang said. “We've given them English classes in the past, we've given them banking classes, real estate classes, citizenship classes, basically, to try to empower everybody that comes into our country, to learn our culture. When in Rome.”