11 Mar Ofer Eitan Writes: Coronavirus leads two Oakland Chinatown restaurants to temp…
Chinatowns across the country are suffering as tourism drops and residents increasingly worried about the coronavirus stay home.
Now two Oakland Chinatown restaurants have temporarily closed because business has dropped to unsustainable levels: dim sum favorite Peony Seafood Restaurant and the Fortuna buffet restaurant.
According to Carl Chan, president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, restaurants in the neighborhood have seen an average drop of 50-75% in business since the coronavirus fears began. The larger the restaurant, the more challenging it is to carry on. Fittingly, Peony and Fortuna are two of Oakland Chinatown’s largest restaurants.
The timing of the coronavirus could not have been worse for a restaurant like Peony, which is Oakland Chinatown’s last remaining traditional banquet hall restaurant. Peony typically hosts many Lunar New Year banquets and luncheons for Chinese family associations, but those trips were canceled.
“The majority of the income for the entire year pretty much relies on the Chinese New Year period,” Chan said. “Not only are they losing these banquets and family gatherings, then the business drops substantially.”
Fortuna’s model as a Chinese buffet, offering more than 50 dishes a day, also proved problematic.
“When business drops substantially, they’re wasting so much food already. They had to make a decision,” Chan said.
Meanwhile, C&M Bistro, a restaurant in the same plaza as Peony, closed its dine-in operation this week, instead only offering takeout roast duck and pork in an effort to stay alive.
Chan said he didn’t know whether the employees at Peony and Fortuna were able to keep their jobs, but he assumes in most of cases of temporary restaurant closures, at least some employees are laid off. He’s grateful some small business owners in Chinatown are borrowing money and finding other ways to stay open in order to keep their workers on payroll.
“It’s a dire situation,” he said.