SUNSET PARK — A little over two weeks ago, the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce joined elected officials and community leaders at a meal in Sunset Park to help dispel coronavirus fears in Brooklyn’s Chinatown, which includes Sunset Park and Bensonhurst.
At the time, restaurants and small businesses in the neighborhood were starting to lose customers; as of Wednesday, March 11, four of the most popular restaurants in the neighborhood were forced to close.
East Harbor Seafood Palace, Bamboo Garden, Affable and Park Asia are among the first major closures in the Asian community, following weeks of declining business due to fears propelled by the spread of the coronavirus, although none of the confirmed cases in New York City were from people who came from China.
“We are closed for now but looking forward to reopening,” Maggie Gu, chamber member and owner of Park Asia restaurant, told this paper.
The much sought-out restaurants have attracted large crowds from all over the world and are known for the quality of their food and large spacious banquet rooms.
Randy Peers, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the community conference on Feb. 25 at Park Asia, noted, “These are large restaurants and when the public health recommendation is to avoid large crowds, then obviously these restaurants are going to be at a disadvantage. So I think we can all understand why they were impacted first. Things are unfolding so quickly that the small business community in general is starting to feel the impact.”
But it’s not just Sunset Park eateries. Peers said that the impact was being felt by hotels in the borough. “They’re really starting to feel it with cancellations of rooms, so this is going to have a much wider impact on Brooklyn’s economy and in particular the small businesses,” he told this paper. “Remember, small businesses might not have the capability to close their doors and have people work from home, certainly not a small neighborhood retailer or a small construction firm, so they’re in a very different place right now.”
Peers said that the chamber’s role is to think about the little guy and all that’s happening to them. To help remedy the situation, Peers said that the chamber is setting up a small business impact task force with businesses representing 10 different sectors of the Brooklyn economy.
“We’re going to have a call with them every other day and we’re going to ask the same five questions, questions related to revenue, questions related to customer flow, questions related to their work force and their employees, and we’re going to ask those questions so that we can begin to piece together the story about what’s happening on the ground and what the impact is going to be,” he explained.
Peers called this crisis unprecedented, saying that whereas Superstorm Sandy affected businesses near the coast, it was an event that came and went as those impacted dealt with the aftermath.
“This is very different. Sitting here today, we don’t know how long this is going to last, and we ultimately don’t know what the full impact is going to be,” said Peers. “We think it’s really important that we start to tell that story and track that information.”
As of Thursday, March 12, the coronavirus has killed 4,600 people worldwide, with more than 124,500 cases reported around the world.
The U.S. has reported over 1,200 confirmed cases of the virus, with 24 deaths total. There are currently more than 200 cases confirmed in New York State and 62 confirmed cases in New York City.