The outbreak of coronavirus is continuing to have a devastating impact on hospitality businesses in Chinatown, with takings down 80% according to some operators.
Andre Wibowo, the manager at Bubblewrap Waffles, a dessert takeaway outlet on Wardour Street, saw a drop in footfall after Chinese New Year, which he attributed to the coverage of the coronavirus outbreak in China.
He told The Caterer: "Our product is slightly more versatile than restaurants so at the beginning I thought our business would be hit but not as bad as restaurants, but my prediction was wrong. Because we are in Chinatown, I think people still view the virus as a Chinese virus."
Wibowo said takings since the beginning of March have been "terrible", adding: "For this month until now it's about 80% down." Tao Tao Ju, an upmarket Chinese restaurant on Lisle Street, closed over the weekend "for an indefinite period of time". Ahead of the closure, management said it had also been impacted by a drop in trade.
General manager Wing Poon, on Friday, said: "We've definitely seen a big drop in footfall. This time is normally a quiet month between February and March but even for the quiet months we've never experienced anything like this. I would say at least between 50% to even 80% drop."
At the time he said the restaurant was cutting down on staff hours as well as part time and casual staff: "It doesn't look good at all. You can see a few restaurants have already closed up, because it's not worthwhile to open up when you hardly make enough to pay for the staff wages. We will probably have to shut for a few weeks."
Simon Huang opened his dessert bar Five Friends Desserts just two weeks ago. He said he has fewer than 10 customers in a day and has already had to lay off two members of staff.
Huang said: "I'm hearing from next week so many restaurants will be closed in Chinatown, but because we're a new shop here we can't, we need to pay everything, if we shut we won't have the money to pay bills. The landlords should do something and give us some kind of discount. We need to find a way to pay the bills."
Poon added: "It's not like bad weather or snow or a terrorist attack or a major incident that has happened in London because you know that after a week or two people will probably start coming back. But with this new epidemic nobody knows what's going to happen next."
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