Coronavirus fears impact local Asian businesses


LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Concerns over the coronavirus are impacting several Asian businesses across the Valley, especially in the Chinatown area.

For them, it is not just because of fewer tourists and overseas manufacturing. They say race is also playing a role in all this.

Chinatown businesses told 8 News Now a major hurdle they are dealing with is some people fear eating at Asian restaurants because COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China. And with business dropping at an alarming rate, some might be forced to shut their doors.

“The last two weeks, it’s real bad. It’s getting worse and worse right now,” said Henda Chow, owner of Harbor Palace Seafood Restaurant in Chinatown.

It is dinner time in Las Vegas, but the seats inside Harbor Palace are empty. Employees are in the kitchen, but they are not cooking.

“Business dropped, almost like 70%,” Chow said.

Chow told 8 News Now he feels potential patrons are concerned about the coronavirus, and they are afraid to eat at Harbor Palace because it is an Asian restaurant.

“The virus comes from China, but it’s not from us, so it’s nothing to do with Chinatown or Chinese Restaurants,” Chow said. “We didn’t cause the problem, but we get blamed for it.”

Chow said he might have to shut down soon for about a month.

“If it gets better, we’ll open. If not, then I don’t know how long we can stay,” Chow said.

Borman Yang owns Yi Mei Champion Taiwan Deli, which is also in the Chinatown area.

“Business has really gone down a lot,” Yang said.

In addition to a decline in convention catering and lack of Asian tourists, Yang says she is also seeing a racial bias.

“That’s not fair for the businesspeople here,” Yang said. “We’re in the United States’ Chinatown. And our food, supplier, everything is from the United States.”

The Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce estimates that business for most Asian restaurants is down between 40 and 60%.

“Our friends who are not Asian restaurant owners, they don’t have as much of a decline, as far as their business is concerned. They’re steady,” said Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce President Sonny Vinuya.

“The business we have right now, it couldn’t even cover the rent,” said Chow.

Chow is hoping to fill the seats inside Harbor Palace soon, but the future is uncertain.

“If it keeps getting worse and worse, then I don’t think anybody can survive,” Chow said.

Businesses told 8 News Now that their limited hours of operation mean their employees are not able to work as much.

For Chow, if he does end up temporarily closing Harbor Palace, he says he will not be able to pay his staff, and they will have to find other work.

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