Coronavirus fears impacting Western Washington businesses

SEATTLE — Coronavirus fears are now impacting Western Washington businesses. County leaders say they’re seeing people cast stigma on people of Asian descent without reason.

The Seattle Chinatown International District Business Improvement Area says shops have seen a slowdown.

The group says the Lunar New Year season should be the busiest for stores and restaurants, but instead, some businesses are seeing a dip.

Tai Tung Chinese Restaurant has been open in the same spot in the Chinatown International District since 1935 – in fact, it’s the oldest Chinese restaurant in Seattle. So it's seen its shares of ups and downs.

“Oh yeah,” said Harry Chan, whose family owns the restaurant. He said based on past experience, they knew what to expect..

“The last time when SARS happened, we can feel it. The business was kind of slow – especially in Chinatown,” Chan said. “And I told everybody, well we better expect business to be kind of slow,” he said.

But he said so far, this time around the impact has been minimal.

“So far I don't have one cancellation because of that. We are lucky,” he said.

But not everyone is as fortunate.

A restaurant in South Lake Union, Zheng Café, has items that specialize in Wuhan cuisine, including a special type of noodle and pork bun.

The restaurant said since the outbreak, business has plunged 90 percent. It now has a sign up saying it's temporarily closed.

“We’ve heard from some businesses that sales have been down. It's really unfortunate and frustrating that this time of the year that is happening. Because Lunar New Year -- this is really our peak season,” said Monisha Singh, executive director of the CID Business Improvement Area, or CIDBIA.

“It seems that this year it's dipping down because of a lot of racialized stigma around coronavirus and this community in particular,” Singh said.

King County Executive Dow Constantine also addressed the problem of stigma at a news conference last week.

“We’re seeing some deeply misinformed judgments and hurtful judgments being cast on people of Asian heritage in our community,” Constatine said. “Stigma is not going to help us fight this outbreak. But it will hurt innocent people,” he said.

The CIDBIA is encouraging people to support this neighborhood.

“Our message is the neighborhood is open, businesses are open,” Singh said.

In fact, the official Lunar New Year celebration for the CID is Saturday.

People will be wearing masks, but Singh reminded residents that it’s in part a cultural thing and people can be seen wearing masks year round.