CHINA GHOST TOWN

Restau­rants facing ruin de­spite no threat to din­ers of catch­ing virus

The Courier-Mail - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID MILLS CORMAC PEAR­SON

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

SUN­NY­BANK RESTAU­RA­TEUR

Pic­ture: An­nette Dew

SOUP’S ON: The Val­ley Su­per Bowl own­ers the Chung fam­ily; no cus­tomers at Sun­ny­bank; (be­low) ZhengKuan Qin of For­tune Well.

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