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Chinatown's 30-Year-Old Shark Fin House Has Closed Due to Coronavirus Fears

The restaurant saw an 80 percent drop in customers and is unlikely to reopen, but politicians and restaurateurs are encouraging Melburnians to get out and support other local Chinese restaurants.
By Libby Curran
February 14, 2020
By Libby Curran
February 14, 2020

In a week already brimming with restaurant closures, yet another famed Melbourne eatery has called it a day, only this one's got nothing to do with wage theft. According to The Age, much-loved Chinatown restaurant Shark Fin House has been forced to shut its doors after fears surrounding coronavirus saw a huge dip in customer numbers.

Despite the restaurant's 30-year history, co-owner and co-founder Gabriel Chan revealed they'd had no choice but to shut last Sunday, with diners seemingly too afraid to eat there. He told The Age that an 80 percent drop in customer numbers meant more than 50 Shark Fin House employees had been laid off and that it's highly unlikely the restaurant will be able to reopen.

The restaurant's sibling venue Shark Fin Inn is also under threat of closure due to dwindling numbers, with Chan calling for support from locals to help it survive the coming weeks. Food writers Gemima Cody and Sofia Levin are rallying diners in an effort to fill the Bourke Street restaurant's dinner service on Monday, February 24, though dropping by any time for a feed will help make a difference.

Of course, the Shark Fin restaurants aren't alone in their troubles, with plummeting patron numbers across the board prompting calls for diners to wise up and steer clear of misinformation surrounding coronavirus. As the ABC explained, "there are no reports of human-to-human coronavirus transmission in Australia: There's no sign anyone is catching it from anyone else."

Politicians are also encouraging Melburnians to support their local Chinese restaurants, with Federal Parliament's first Chinese-born MP Gladys Liu telling The Age, "I will be going out this weekend in Box Hill and Glen Waverley to make sure that people know that it is safe."

Victorian Minister for Health Jenny Mikakos also took to social media to remind everyone that Chinese restaurants across the state are open for business and safe to attend, saying, "the fact is that all Victorians that have been affected by the new coronavirus have recovered and are no longer contagious." And City of Melbourne councillors enjoyed a lunch in Chinatown earlier this week, with a Facebook post from Lord Mayor Sally Capp saying: "All the expert advice shows there's no increased risk from coronavirus in Melbourne. Keep coming to the city to support all the amazing businesses we have here."

Within the industry, restaurateurs are also rallying support for each other with David Zhou from Oriental Teahouse and David's Restaurant telling Concrete Playground: "We all need to support each other where we can to minimise the impact of the challenges we face.The facts are out there, so if you have a favourite Chinese restaurant, the time to go visit them is now."

To find out more about the status of COVID-19 in Australia and how to protect yourself, head to the Australian Government Department of Health's website.

Image: Chinatown by Josie Withers for Visit Victoria

Published on February 14, 2020 by Libby Curran

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