CHINA GHOST TOWN
Restaurants facing ruin despite no threat to diners of catching virus
POPULAR Chinese dining precincts Sunnybank and Chinatown are struggling as customers abandon restaurants and businesses because of unfounded fears over the coronavirus.
The National Retailers Association says business is down by up to 60 per cent and has implored customers to return, reassuring patrons there is no risk of catching the deadly disease by eating at their local Chinese restaurant.
QUEENSLAND diners are being reassured that there is no threat of catching coronavirus at their local Chinese restaurant as struggling precincts report plummeting numbers and fearful customers coming in armed with hand sanitiser.
Some restaurant owners in Sunnybank and Fortitude Valley say they face losing their businesses as they struggle to pay wages and are forced to lay off staff or slash hours.
National Retailers Association CEO Dominique Lamb said “consumers should have no concerns” about eating out or shopping at retailers in or near suburbs with high densities of Asian Australians, such as Sunnybank in Brisbane.
She said they had been most exposed to the “coronavirus effect”, driving shopper numbers down 60 per cent.
“There is really no risk of people contracting anything,” she said.
The peak body for 28,000 retail and fast food outlets yesterday released a “Blueprint for Retail Recovery” calling for help from different levels of government, including a 12month payroll tax “holiday” and an exemption to increases in the national minimum wage for businesses affected by bushfires and coronavirus.
Nick Chung of Super Bowl Chinese restaurant in Fortitude Valley said a lack of business during the Chinese New Year period meant they had to cut down staff hours.
“I have to presume people get scared to go out because they don’t want to get the coronavirus, but I don’t think this virus should stop you from living your life – don’t let it destroy your lifestyle,” he said. “A lot of restaurants have had to lay off staff and some restaurants have even had to close for periods of time to keep expenses down to get through this hard time.”
Fortune Well Restaurant manager Becky Xie said the Sunnybank business had gone from being packed to hosting just two tables on a Saturday night. She said they were struggling to pay wages and at serious risk of losing their business.
“Local people here need to support the local community,” she said. Another Sunnybank restaurant owner – who did not want to be named – said he had experienced up to a 50 per cent drop in business recently.
“They’ve all been mainly takeaway as well, they don’t want to stay around too long,” he said. “They even come in with mini hand sanitiser.”
Ms Lamb said all three levels of government had an obligation to counter the infection fears that were causing people to stay home.
While the exact impact will only be known with the release of March quarter figures, she said some shopping centres were “the quietest people have ever seen them”.
Australia China Business Council national CEO Helen Sawczak said the economic impact from the coronavirus would be “profound”.
They’ve all been mainly takeaway, y, theyy don’t want to stay long ... They even come in with mini hand sanitiser
SOUP’S ON: The Valley Super Bowl owners the Chung family; no customers at Sunnybank; (below) ZhengKuan Qin of Fortune Well.