"It's Terrible": NYC Restaurants Shocked With "Mass Event Cancellations" As Virus Fears Grow

We already wrote weeks ago about how the coronavirus was wreaking havoc among Chinese business owners in various cities across the U.S.

Since then, fear of the virus has been ramped up significantly, and so it should come as no surprise that people are starting to cancel events at NYC restaurants en masse, according to Eater

Restaurants across NYC are reporting that parties are being cancelled and business is "seeing dips" since the first confirmed coronavirus case in NYC last week. And if we were willing to bet, those would not be "dips" you'd want to buy. It'll likely get worse.

As of Monday, there were 19 confirmed cases in the city and many corporate offices are encouraging employees to work from home. Hotels and restaurants are getting hit the hardest. One restaurant owner, Tom Colicchio, says his revenue is down "as much as 70%". The NYC Hospitality alliance says it's seen a "big drop" in business. 

Another restaurantuer, Michael Sinensky, founder of Simple Venue, a hospitality group that runs Sushi by Bae and Sushi by Bou, says sales have dropped off by as much as 25% and he's expecting it to continue for "several weeks". 

Additionally, fewer companies are booking events for the spring. Colicchio said: “It’s terrible. It’s just an unknown here. You have no idea how long it’s going to last. It’s hard to get in front of ... who knows when things will go back to normal?”

Restaurants that rely on large parties are also seeing declines in foot traffic. Xi’an Famous Foods’s CEO Jason Wang saw a 20% drop in his locations in Flushing and Chinatown last month. He also says customer foot traffic is lower.

Owner of East Village Korean restaurant Nowon, Jae Lee, said business started falling about three weeks ago, but has tapered since then. The restaurant group behind Japanese spots like Sobaya said that foot traffic is "visibly lower". 

And things aren't looking optimistic. Not unlike the market itself, this is a dip that may not be getting better anytime soon. Ravi DeRossi — who owns 15 restaurants and bars, said: "Over the weekend, a quarter of reservations canceled day-of, with some saying they’re concerned about being in public places and others worried about not feeling well. This was the first weekend. My feeling is every weekend, it’s going to get worse and worse.”

Many restaurants are now dealing with extra precautions for hygiene. More things are getting disinfected, more frequently, according to Eater. One owner says the "unprecedented" situation has them training their staff on how to deal with "fear and panic". 

Colicchio’s restaurants are keeping less inventory on hand and holding off on larger purchases for the time being. The Sushi by Bae and Sushi by Bou restaurants are developing a delivery box to try and “balance the business we expect to lose due to the virus panic.”

DeRossi concluded: “I’ll be honest, I’m a little scared. I’m in the East Village. All it takes is one case. If one restaurant in the East Village says, ‘This person at this restaurant got that,’ and the entire East Village will shut down overnight. I honestly don’t know what to do, other than take every serious precaution that we can.”

“I think we’re in for a long period of uncertainty right now,” Colicchio added.