Pandemic fears grip the world as cases and deaths surge ex-China. Last month, we reported that Chinatowns around the globe were struck with a demand shock as consumers ditched Chinese restaurants for fear they could catch Covid-19. Eater LA says Los Angeles’ Koreatown has also seen plunging food sales as ‘Asianphobia’ rises with increasing virus cases in the US.
General Tso’s chicken has left a sour taste among consumers’ mouths as eating habits rapidly shift because of virus fear. From Australia to New York City to Toronto to England to San Francisco, Chinatowns around the world have had their food sales halved in the last month. Some restaurants warned if low traffic continues into the next quarter, their operations would have to be shuttered.
It’s not just Sinophobia that has consumers absolutely terrified that they could contract the virus if they are near a Chinese person, it’s now anyone who looks Asian, otherwise known as ‘Asianphobia.’
Eater LA notes that on Friday a KBS America’s news story on Tuesday detailed how a Korean Airlines flight attendant with symptoms of the virus recently visited LA’s Koreatown turned out to be entirely false. Though, in the wake of the story, food sales of restaurants in the Central LA neighborhood centered near Eighth Street and Irolo Street, west of MacArthur Park, plunged.
LA County Public Health Department stated in a presser on Thursday that no information suggests the flight attendant visited Koreatown.
Food sales at Han Bat Shul Lung Tang were halved last week because of the rumor. Hangari Kalguksu, a popular restaurant offering various noddle dishes, made a statement on Instagram that they hired a professional cleaning company to sanitize the restaurant, dismissing the virus rumor.
A trade group representing LA’s Koreatown restaurants said business conditions deteriorated last week on the rumor, contributed to a 50% decline in food sales.
“In the Korean American community here, it [the rumor] went like wildfire,” Alex Won told AP News on Friday as he chowed down on a bowl of beef brisket soup at Han Bat Shul Lung Tang. “It’s sad.”
Restaurants in LA’s Koreatown Reel Amid Coronavirus Rumor In a Koreatown restaurant known for its beef bone broth soup, the lunchtime crowd Friday was half its normal size. The reason was a virulent rumor about a customer with coronavirus. Han Bat Shul Lung Tang was one of fi… pic.twitter.com/yampUBGFb0
— Punjabi Radio Los Angeles (@lapunjabiradio) February 29, 2020
Won said he’s never seen Han Bat Shul Lung Tang “this empty, “adding that “there are always people here.”
AP News notes that their interactions with various shop owners in Koreatown said business died overnight because of the rumor.
“It’s a bad rumor, but people like bad rumors,” said Jay Choi, manager of Hanshin Pocha.
The streets of Koreatown last week and this weekend had people wearing masks, out of fear the virus is stealthily spreading on the West Coast.
State Assemblyman Kansen Chu, D-San Jose, said Chinatowns had taken severe economic losses as a result of Sinophobia. Now it appears, Asianphobia has claimed its next victim: LA’s Koreatown.
If community spreading across the US erupts, could the virus lead a bust of Asian eateries?