HOUSTON, Texas – Coronavirus concerns have taken a toll on Houston’s Chinatown.
Xiong says: “The week right after Chinese New Year, we got hit. The whole Chinatown got hit. I think it originated from very vicious rumor,” says Cori Xiong, owner of Mala Sichuan Bistro.
Xiong says her restaurant is typically packed with customers, but it has seen a significant decline in business over irrational fears about the coronavirus.
“From that, our business was lowered by at least 35 to 60 percent daily. Normally on a Saturday we will get like about 500 customers, and right now on Saturdays we only get less than 200,” says Xiong.
Xiong and her husband employ roughly 60 staff members across three locations in Houston. The couple just celebrated the birth of their second child and were slated to open their fourth bistro in Sugar Land next month, but were forced to delay.
Xiong says: “If it continues to be like this, we’ll start to have a negative cash flow. And then we’ll have to start to lay off people, which that is the last thing that we want to do.”
Next door at Gangnam Style Restaurant, business was even worse. The owners say they had to lay off all but one employee. In fact, according to the Asian Chamber of Commerce, other restaurants in the area are now limiting their hours to where they are only open on the weekends.
At least two Chinatown businesses have had to shut down entirely in the last month.
“On average, if still the business is down about 20 to 30 percent, than it’s normal. It’s very competitive. So the profit margin is very slim,” says Kenneth Li, Asian Chamber of Commerce Board Trustee.
“They need Houstonians to come and save Chinatown so that all these restaurant owners and business owners can make a living,” says Robert de los Santos, of the Houston Entrepreneur Organization.