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Asian restaurants hit hard by lack of business

Updated March 11, 2020 - 4:02 pm

Asian restaurants across the valley continue to see a downturn in business as a result of coronavirus outbreak fears, and layoffs have begun.

Sonny Vinuya, president of the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce, said while he doesn’t have hard figures, the organization surveyed about 40 of its members in the restaurant industry and received reports of a decline in business of 40 to 60 percent.

“We have a couple who are actually laying off people or sending them home, or they’re even thinking about closing,” he said. “With that drop in business, they can’t function.”

Vinuya said the decline is due to a combination of reduced tourism and the stigma attached to Asian restaurants because the virus’ initial foothold was in China.

Henda Chow, owner and manager of the Chinatown landmark Harbor Palace, said last week that business was down 60 t0 70 percent and had been since the beginning of February. Wednesday afternoon, he said things had gotten worse and he’s had to lay off six people.

Vinuya said things seem to be worse for restaurants in relatively close proximity to the Strip, such as those in the Chinatown area. And he said the stream of buses that normally could be seen dropping off tourists to dine in the Chinatown Plaza had ground to a halt.

“Last week, I got so excited” because he thought he had spotted one, Vinuya said. “I pulled in and it was an express bus from L.A.”

He said he and members of the board of the Asian chamber have been frequenting the hard-hit restaurants each night.

“Unless people just have the fear of going out, there’s no reason not to go to Asian restaurants,” Vinuya said. “Local Asian restaurants are fine. They buy their food from U.S. distributors. Their workers live here. Right now, there are no tourists coming, so the only people who go there are locals.”

Vinuya said chamber representatives met with U.S. Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., and hoped the businesses could get some relief from the various stimulus plans that have been proposed.

As for Chow, he repeated what he said last week.

“Hopefully,” he said, “it’ll end soon.”

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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