Owners of local Chinese restaurants say they are nervous about making rent and holding onto staff as they endure a sizable slowdown in business that they attribute to fears about the coronavirus.
“People keep spreading the word to say, ‘Don’t go to Asian restaurants. Don’t go to Chinese restaurants,’” said Wai Wang, manager and co-owner of the year-old Wang Dynasty in Bethesda. “This is not fair to us.”
Kai Cheng, a cashier at the Golden House Restaurant in Bethesda, said business started to slow last month and there is no end in sight. She said the restaurant is serving about 30% of the customers it usually sees.
“Right now they don’t have a vaccine, they don’t have medicine. Right now, it just started in the United States,” Ms. Cheng said. “It’s just the beginning.”
The coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, originated in the city of Wujan in central China in December. Since then, more than 95,000 people around the world have tested positive for the respiratory illness, and more than 3,200 have died — mostly in China.
In the U.S., at least 129 people have tested positive for the COVID-19 and 11 have died — 10 in Washington state and one in California, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Several people have been tested for the coronavirus in the District, Maryland and Virginia, but no instances of the disease have been confirmed in the region, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Health officials say the virus spreads person-to-person via droplets that are expelled when an infected person coughs or sneezes. There is no evidence that transmission can occur through food, the CDC states, adding that the coronavirus does not survive long on surfaces.
“The virus is in the whole wide world. It’s not because we are Asian, it’s not because we are Chinese restaurants,” Ms. Wang said. “From what I know, my neighbors, all the American restaurants are still doing very good.”
Since January, she said she has noticed a decline in business, and now the restaurant is getting only about 40% of the business it usually sees.
Ms. Wang said that two staff members quit this week to look for other work opportunities and that she is worried about paying the restaurant’s $17,000 monthly rent.
The Wang Dynasty manager said she also has noticed that Asian customers get strange looks from American customers when they enter her restaurant.
“Asian customers might cough because they got choked with the water, people will instantly call me and tell me they want to move tables,” Ms. Wang said. “I have seen that with American customers, nobody notices they are coughing.”
At Shanghai Lounge in Georgetown, workers have noticed a dip in business since Saturday and said they are seeing only about 50% of the usual patronage. By 4 p.m. Tuesday, the restaurant had served only 20 customers.
Chang Fang Luo, owner of the lounge for the last five years, said he is nervous about making rent, especially because he lives above the restaurant.
Staff members Jason He, 28, and Tommy Su, 34, expressed concerns about paying their bills because they aren’t making enough money in tips. They asked if the government was going to do anything to help them.
Source: Thanks https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/mar/4/dc-area-chinese-restaurant-owners-pin-slowdown-on-/