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How Coronavirus Fear Impacts the Las Vegas Restaurant World

Tourism could take a hit too

A plane lands in Las Vegas with the Strip in the background
The Las Vegas skyline
welcomia/Shutterstock

Already the Southern Nevada Health District reports the first presumptive positive case of coronavirus with one man in his 50s testing positive with COVID-19 in Las Vegas on March 5. On Sunday, the health department reported a second presumptive positive case.

As fears surrounding the disease rise, wiping out bottled water and toilet paper supplies across the city and ending free food samples in grocery stores, the tourist heavy city’s restaurants have taken a hit.

Las Vegas-based casinos already felt the effects of coronavirus in Macau, where companies such as Las Vegas Sands Corp., Wynn Resorts Ltd., and MGM Resorts International own resorts and report that travel restrictions and quarantines hurt their financial futures. With cases increasing in the United States, and four now reported in Nevada, with two in Washoe County, the effects of coronavirus could take a negative turn on the bottom lines of tourism in Las Vegas and more specifically restaurant traffic.

So far, the Southern Nevada Health District has said, “…the immediate risk from the virus to the general public in Clark County and the United States remains low at this time.”

First to tourism, where a decline in the number of Chinese high rollers visiting Las Vegas could hurt tourism. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported 4 percent of tourists came to Las Vegas from China in 2018. The good news is that tourism numbers for January 2020 were up when compared to previous years. Numbers for February are not out yet.

Billionaire Tilman Fertitta, who owns the Golden Nugget as well as restaurants including Morton’s The Steakhouse, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., and Mastro’s Ocean Club, told CNBC on Friday his 600 restaurants around the world are losing about $1 million daily on average, and he blames those losses on the coronavirus. Tourist destinations are among the hardest hit, he said. “Vegas is really starting to slip now,” Fertitta told Power Lunch.

A statue in Chinatown Plaza
Chinatown Plaza
Louiie Victa

While some restaurateurs have not been inclined to discuss how coronavirus has affected business, some have gone on the record to report less foot traffic, especially in Chinatown. Harbor Palace Seafood Restaurant in Chinatown Plaza reports business declining by 60 percent to 70 percent. Henda Chow, who owns and manages the restaurant that specializes in dim sum and traditional Chinese dishes served until 2 a.m., tells the Las Vegas Review-Journal that business started dipping in the beginning of February when initial reports of coronavirus emerged.

Same goes for Takopa Japanese Street Food in Chinatown Plaza, where assistant manager Jimm Alvarez told the RJ that business has been slow.

On the weekend of March 1, Shanghai Plaza, the new strip mall with a dozen Asian restaurants spanning Korean fried chicken and hot dogs, conveyor belt sushi, dumplings, and Thai and Vietnamese fare bustled with business, with nary a parking space to be had. But Shanghai Taste tells KTNV that business was down 50 percent to 75 percent in February. Dagu Rice Noodle owner Gary Chan, who also manages the plaza, says his profits dropped 20 percent to 30 percent.

On the tourist reliant Strip, a national or global crises can impact business. The Los Angeles Times reports that the 2008 recession brought a 4 percent dip in gaming revenue, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. Almost 6.6 million visitors come to the city for conventions and business meetings every year, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reports. So far, software company Adobe canceled its summit at the Venetian in March, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations postponed it event.

All Coverage of Coronavirus [Eater]

Where To Find the Best Bets for Asian Food in Chinatown [ELV]

Golden Nugget

129 Fremont St, Las Vegas, NV 89101

Shanghai Taste

4266 Spring Mountain Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89102

Shanghai Plaza

4258 Spring Mountain Road, Las Vegas, NV 89102

Mastro's Ocean Club

3720 South Las Vegas Boulevard, , NV 89158 (702) 798-7115 Visit Website

Morton's The Steakhouse

74-880 Country Club Drive, , CA 92260 (760) 340-6865 Visit Website

Dagu Rice Noodle

4284 Spring Mountain Road, Las Vegas, NV 89102

TAKOPA JAPANESE STREET FOOD

, , NV 89102 (702) 445-6343

Harbor Palace Seafood Restaurant

4275 Spring Mountain Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89102 (702) 253-1688 Visit Website

Bubba Gump Shrimp Co.

1501 Broadway, Manhattan, NY 10036 (212) 391-7100 Visit Website

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