As I dined on my delicious Lemongrass Beef at the new and nearly empty Green Tree Restaurant on 87th and Greenwood yesterday, my server relayed to me the grim reality that has descended upon our community: Coronavirus fears are not good for business. Green Tree, by her estimation, is down 40% from where it was just two montha ago when it debuted in the spot formerly occupied by Sushi Naomi.
With many businesses being affected by this scare, Chinese restaurants have been one of the most affected because of xenophobia, misinformation, and general panic. The New York Times reported that New York City’s three Chinatown districts saw business drop from 50 to 70 percent in the first two weeks of February, leaving many areas virtual ghost towns and owners scrambling to make rent.
Public health experts note that many reasons people cite for avoiding Chinese restaurants are unfounded, specifically because Coronavirus is a respiratory illness that spreads through direct contact with carriers of the virus – not through food.
In a recent interview on King 5, director of the Seattle Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area Monisha Singh emphasized that now is the time for neighborhoods to support their local businesses. “We want them to know that business is open, our neighborhood is open, and everyone is welcome here, and to just be mindful of how the virus actually works,” Singh told King 5. “It’s not a race-based virus.”
In addition to Green Tree, another local Chinese restaurant that requested anonymity reported their business down 50%, with their pickup business down even more.
Other restaurants and cafes in the neighborhood have been affected as well, with Luna Azul owner Felipe Orduna reporting a 30% drop and a recent disappointing Taco Tuesday. Alexei Bucos, owner of Celine Patisserie says business is off by 20% during the week and 30% on weekends.