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Coronavirus fears impacting businesses in Seattle's Chinatown-International District

Some business owners in Seattle's Chinatown-International District said news of the coronavirus outbreak has slowed down the flow of customers.

SEATTLE — Some Seattle businesses said fear about the 2019 novel coronavirus is driving customers away and hurting their bottom line.

The business community in the Chinatown-International District is calling this a frustrating time and hope for more understanding than fear from the general public.

Tai Tung Restaurant has been in the neighborhood for 85 years. Owner Harry Chan said all those decades in business can teach someone a lot, like how to treat customers and when certain headlines might impact the business.

Chan said news of the coronavirus outbreak has slowed down the flow of costumers into his family’s restaurant.

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“It does hurt the business a little bit, but the sad news is we expect that,” explained Chan.

The same thing happened nearly 20 years ago with news of the SARS outbreak.

“It is very targeted to this community, and that's been extremely frustrating,” said Monisha Singh, executive director of the Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area (CIDBIA).

Singh said the Lunar New Year is usually a time for booming sales. Instead, restaurants, retail businesses, and grocery stores have been reporting the opposite.

“We’re seeing the businesses slowing down, which is unfortunately due to the narrative around the coronavirus,” said Singh. “A lot of it, I think, has to do with the stigma of the virus in China and in a Chinese community.”

Singh said the stigma of associating the source of the outbreak with an entire race of people is damaging and instead, this should be a time of neighbors supporting each other.

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“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,” said Singh. “It’s not a race-based virus.”

It's something Chan would like others to realize as well. He hopes the impact this particular headline has is just a small note in his restaurant's continued local legacy.

On Saturday, the CIDBIA will be holding its annual Lunar New Year celebration from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Singh hopes the community will use the opportunity to learn about the cultures in the International District and support businesses who have taken a recent financial hit.