Coronavirus Hurting Restaurant Business in Chinatowns

Worrying news from New York City and elsewhere

Chinatown NYC
Restaurants in Chinatowns around the world are seeing a decline in business due to unwarranted fears of the coronavirus.
chensiyuan/Creative Commons
By Tobias Carroll / February 8, 2020 6:14 am

As the world continues to monitor efforts to contain and find a cure for the recent outbreak of coronavirus, the sense of panic that’s overtaken many has manifested itself in numerous unsettling ways. A recent Vox article noted that some people’s response to coronavirus has been a xenophobic one, with incidents of anti-Asian racism on the rise. Another worrying trend? Restaurants in Chinatowns around the globe are experiencing a substantial drop in business.

As Chris Crowley at Grub Street reports, this can be attributed in part to “those who push age-old and bigoted misperceptions of Chinese culinary habits.” And it’s had a devastating impact on restaurants in, for example, New York City’s Chinatown, which is already reeling after the Museum of Chinese in America fire.

“It’s a ghost town in Chinatown right now,” Wilson Tang of Nom Wah Tea Parlor told Grub Street. “There’s just nobody around. Typically there’s a lot of tourists, stuff going on.”

Crowley’s article features quotes illustrating the effect that coronovirus-related panic has had on numerous Chinese restaurants around New York City, including a downturn in the number of tourists coming in to eat. But it’s not just New York that’s been affected by this; a recent article at Quartz notes that this is an issue being felt by restaurants in numerous Chinatowns around the world.

Overly cautious or flat-out racist diners avoiding Chinese restaurants is but one way the coronavirus has impacted the food industry. The effects of the coronavirus within China have also harmed the business of a number of restaurant companies. Disease outbreaks can have a much broader societal impact than on the medical front; this serves as an unsettling reminder of that.

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