Due to fears related to the coronavirus disease, a Montgomery County, Maryland, restaurant has seen a slump in profit, according to its owner.
Jimmy Chan, the owner of Bite of Asia on Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Bethesda, has watched his business drop by half in only a month.
Stores selling masks and hand sanitizer have seen an uptick in sales, but area restaurants have seen a decrease in business over the last months.
“A lot of people think that when they order food from a Chinese restaurant, they’re going to get the disease,” Chan said.
Bite of Asia specializes in food from Thailand, Malaysia, China and Japan.
When the COVID-19 virus, which caused the current coronavirus disease outbreak, hit the headlines, Chan said the steady increase in business he saw since opening his doors six months ago started to fall — fast.
Over the last month, Chan’s restaurant had more open tables during normally busy times. He watched in despair as revenue dropped by close to $30,000.
At the end of February, he was close to not being able to pay salaries, and has laid off two employees.
Chan said one saving grace, has been loyal customers at the nearby National Institutes of Health and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
“They know eating the food doesn’t mean you can get the disease,” Chan said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Prevention and the World Health Organization do not say avoid eating at restaurants in their guidance on how to prevent getting the COVID-19 virus.
Both agencies advocate the typical steps you should take to avoid getting sick, such as washing your hands.
“Right now, Italy’s got the coronavirus, Korea has the coronavirus. So, where are you going to go? Where are you going to eat?” Chan said.
Chan, who has operated restaurants in the area for more than 40 years, said he hopes the fear will diminish soon and customers begin coming back in larger numbers.
If not, he fears for all restaurants being affected by concern over the illness.
“Probably a lot of restaurants are going to be closed,” he said.
For Chan, he said the worst-case scenario is he will have to let his entire staff go, and run the restaurant by himself.
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