Business leaders say tourists and locals have been avoiding Chinese restaurants, shops and other businesses ever since news first broke about the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December. City officials and some Chinese business owners say many people fear visiting Chinatown because the disease started in China.
“The mayor and President Trump say, ‘Don’t worry,’ but the CDC says something different,” Tu told CNN Business. “If you’re the people, who are you going to listen to? You’re going to listen to the CDC. You’re going to cook at home.”
“After 9/11, people were not afraid to come back to eat,” Wellington Chen, executive director of New York’s Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corporation, told CNN Business. “There was this American spirit that we’re going to be fearless, we’re going to rebuild. This time around, there’s this fear factor that is being blown out of proportion.”
City officials began receiving complaints of taxi drivers refusing to drop customers off in Chinese neighborhoods around the same time, according to the New York Department of Small Business Services.
“In certain neighborhoods, we’re going to see a significant economic impact,” Gregg Bishop, commissioner of the city’s Department of Small Business Services, told CNN Business. “If this goes on for the next three to five months, certain businesses, I’m sure, are going to have to furlough some of their staff.”
Medical facilities in Chinese neighborhoods, Chinese banquet halls and restaurants are faring the worst, according to local business leaders.
Connie Zhang is the president & CEO of the Royal Queen banquet hall that the mayor visited in mid-February. She said sales at the business, which employs about 200 workers, have declined between 70% and 80% since January and fear of coronavirus is the primary culprit.
As a result, Zhang is making significant cuts to her payroll to avoid layoffs. “People who were working six days are now working three or four days,” Zhang said. “It’s very bad.”
Bishop said Chinese restaurants’ sales declines are causing economic ripple effects in other business sectors.
“We’re also seeing an impact on the suppliers,” Bishop said. “The fish market is seeing a decline in sales. The other food providers who provide food to those businesses are also seeing a decline in sales.”
“Chinese customers are normally the highest spenders,” Chen said. “They spend the largest amount and stay the longest amount out of the travel groups. … We have also seen many of the Asian Americans that have already paid [for hotels and charter buses] cancel out of their own fear.”
Zhang, the Royal Queen restaurant CEO, said some of her fellow Chinese restaurant owners have been forced to close temporarily amid the coronavirus crisis, something she is trying to avoid.
“We don’t want to shut down because no one knows how long this is going to go on,” Zhang said. “We’re trying to keep the restaurant open. It’s really hard for us.”
The State Department of Health confirmed that the woman was diagnosed in a Manhattan hospital. The governor said the woman — who has respiratory symptoms, but was not in serious condition on Sunday — has been isolated in her home.
“There is no reason for undue anxiety,” Cuomo said in written statement on the matter. “The general risk remains low in New York. We are diligently managing the situation and will continue to provide information as it becomes available.”