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Sales at NYC’s Chinatown Restaurants Plummet Following Coronavirus Panic

Plus, the city considers regulating NYC’s growing number of ghost kitchens — and more intel

An exterior photo of Sichuan restaurant Hwa Yuan which shows a white stone exterior and a silver sign that bears the name.
Upscale Sichuan restaurant Hwa Yuan saw a 40 percent drop in business this week
Photo by Gary He
Erika Adams is the editor of Eater Boston.

Chinatown restaurant sales drop following coronavirus scare

There have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York City, but that hasn’t stopped misinformation and fear from spreading like wildfire throughout the boroughs, resulting in massive dips in business among some of the city’s Chinese restaurants. Wilson Tang, the owner of the nationally-recognized Nom Wah Tea Parlor, told Grub Street that, on February 3, the restaurant saw an unprecedented 40 percent drop in business, while critically-acclaimed Sichuan spot Hwa Yuan also saw a similar, steep drop-off in sales this week.

“It sucks,” Tang tells Grub Street. “The past couple days suck. We’ve been letting people go early, just to let them take some extra time off. It’s slow in general.”

Other restaurateurs in Manhattan’s Chinatown told the New York Times this week that they’ve seen sales plummet by up to 70 percent in the past 10 days. Due to a variety travel restrictions stemming from the virus scare, the city is also suffering from a sharp decline in incoming Chinese tourists — which represent the second-largest group of international travelers to the city. That in turn is hurting a wide range of businesses that rely on Chinese tourism revenue. Some owners are already preparing for the potential of longterm devastating effects, and are considering layoffs in order to survive the economic fallout.

In other news

— New York City council member Mark Gjonaj ran the country’s first oversight hearing on delivery-only ghost kitchens yesterday morning. Representatives from ghost kitchens including Zuul and Kitchen United defended their business practices, while restaurateurs from places like Tribeca Kitchen and Alicart Restaurant Group voiced concerns about the intent of the venture capital-backed tech startups.

— Also in the hearing, Gjonaj pointed out that an Uber Eats virtual restaurant in New York City, Mikado Poke, got a ‘C’ rating from the health department due to the presence of mice and flies in the kitchen, and nobody really knew about it.

— West Village’s stylish High Street on Hudson has a new chef, according to a restaurant spokesperson. Andrew Farley, who comes from one of High Street Hospitality’s sister restaurants in Philadelphia, is working alongside partner and chef Melissa Weller, adding pizzas and pastas to the menu, as well as more large-format dining options.

Food Bazaar supermarket in Long Island City sold a $2 million winning Powerball ticket this week — and nobody’s come to pick it up yet.

— West Village izakaya spot Būmu is launching weekend brunch starting this Saturday, according to a restaurant spokesperson. The new menu features fried chicken and sesame waffles, cast iron okonomiyaki, and cinnamon buns made to order. Brunch will run every Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

— Vegan burger joint Lekka launched a special burger for the month of February, a collaboration with chef Adam Kenworthy, according to a restaurant spokesperson. The new burger features mushrooms, avocado, peri peri sauce, and papadum and is selling for $11.95. Proceeds go towards GrowNYC.

— Nontraditional omakase hotspot Kissaki is launching lunch starting next Tuesday, according to a press release, and a new chef will be joining the team behind the counter: John Daley, who used to run Sushi Ko.

Black Seed Bagels has paired up with popular Upper West Side pizza shop Mama’s Too, for a $11.50 pizza-bagel sandwich mashup, according to a press release. The collaboration runs through February at all Black Seed locations.

Mayhem Sandwiches is opening in Chelsea Market today, offering porchetta and smoke-braised pork sandwiches and a beer list that includes local favorites Gun Hill and Kings County Brewers Collective, according to a restaurant spokesperson.

Spanish Diner at Mercado Little Spain will be hosting a showing of the Oscars this Sunday, along with free popcorn and a specially-priced menu of drinks.

— Look at that determination:

Nom Wah Tea Parlor

13 Doyers Street, Manhattan, NY 10013 (212) 392-6800 Visit Website

Hwa Yuan

42 East Broadway, New York, NY 10002