Chinatown restaurants, shops say business is down due to coronavirus fears
Across the U.S., Chinese restaurants and businesses are reporting slumping sales due to stigma and fear surrounding the outbreak of a novel coronavirus which originated in Wuhan, China.
Debbie Chen, a restaurant owner in Houston, told USA Today that many businesses are down 50 to 75 percent from their regular traffic, depending on the day.
“There are false rumors going around on social media,” Chen said. “There was one rumor talking about one of the local grocery stores, that they’d discovered [the virus] there and … business went down almost 80 percent immediately.”
China has confirmed 72,436 cases and around 1,868 deaths from the virus since the outbreak began late last year. In the U.S., there are approximately 15 confirmed cases of the deadly respiratory virus, according to The Associated Press, and almost all of those patients had personally visited China.
“If you listen to all the different news reports, people are scared,” Chen said. “There may be some hints of xenophobia. … But at the same time, I think that for some people, it might just be ignorance, fear, and there may be people putting things out without thinking about how it impacts working people.”
Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) spoke with leaders in the Houston area along with public health officials to reassure patrons who might be avoiding these areas of town due to worries or concerns about coronavirus, according to USA Today.
“We must not stoke any looming fears or stigmas surrounding this public health issue,” Green said in a statement, adding that there is no need for the people of Houston to avoid any normal business locations out of fear of the virus.
David Portalatin, the vice president and food industry adviser for the market research company NPD Group, said that the restaurant industry has not seen a significant impact or drop in customers since the outbreak of coronavirus began.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re seeing some very isolated impacts,” Portalatin said.
Steve Ip, a manager at a restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown, said business has dropped 30 to 40 percent since reports of the outbreak, saying that the decline is felt “especially at lunchtime.”