Festival restores business to GTA restaurants facing discrimination amid coronavirus
TORONTO -- A two-week Asian food festival is restoring confidence for restaurant owners in the Greater Toronto Area who have reported a drop in sales due to the fears over the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
"I'm happy, the community is really good and so many people have come to support us," said Zhenguy Fang, who manages Wuhan Noodle 1950 in Markham.
Fang says the restaurant has been the target of racist comments and phone calls since the outbreak in Wuhan, China. He adds the business has lost more than 50 per cent of their customers in the past two weeks.
"Some people told us health inspectors should be contacted and shut us down over the virus," Fang said.
The festival dubbed "Asialicious" started on Friday and since then Fang has seen an overwhelming response from the community.
"It gives me confidence," he said.
"I think it's unfair how they've been treated and I wanted to come and show my support," said customer Alan Marr.
More than 100 restaurants in York Region and Toronto are participating in the two-week festival that ends on Feb. 28. Each restaurant is offering a signature dish as part of the festival.
Orders were piling in at Ten Miles BBQ on Spadina Avenue Saturday afternoon. The restaurant opened in September and owner Michael Li was relieved to see business pick up again.
"It dropped 50 per cent," he said. "We had to deduct people's hours."
Li estimates his restaurant has lost $5,000 per day in sales since the outbreak in China. However, he's noticed a shift away from discrimination and business is slowly starting to rebound.
"Very happy and very confident for the future. I can start to give my employees more hours."
He hopes this festival will not only help boost sales, but also put to rest any misinformation still out there.
"We need people to feel more comfortable to coming dining in the restaurant," Li said.
Public health officials stress the risk of contracting COVID-19 in Ontario remains low. So far, there have been three confirmed cases in the province, with one in London, Ont. now deemed resolved.