by Charles Qin

Shark Fin House at 131 Little Bourke Street in Melbourne’s Chinatown, a popular restaurant for over three decades, is one of Melbourne’s iconic Yum Cha destinations.  Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus, its business has plummeted and patronage has fallen by 80%.  Mr Gabriel Chan, the owner, laid off more than 50 regular and temporary workers and closed the restaurant on Sunday 9 February, and in a tear-felt interview said it was unlikely to reopen.

NEWS JUST IN: Since news about Shark Fin House got out, there has been a huge outpouring of support. A major Chinese community lunch at Shark Fin Inn (sister restaurant) on 12 February was hosted by Teresa Chung, Dr Anne Pang, Haha Liu, and political and business figures in Victoria, and reservations have turned around.   People in Melbourne have extended a helping hand.  The restaurant owner Gabriel Chan sent a message to the author thanking everyone for their support.   Due to their passion and care, the restaurant will continue operating.  He thanked everyone once again.  The restaurant will reopen on 21 February.

Since Wuhan reported the first coronavirus case in December last year, many Melbourne enterprises have been affected, especially in the hospitality and tourism sector.   Many restaurants used to attract long queues but now diners are few and far between.

The health scare has had a major impact on Asian restaurants across Australia, especially Chinese restaurants and even Thai and Vietnamese restaurants have seen business decrease greatly.  In addition, restaurants in the Gold Coast and Sydney have also been reported to have been hit hard.

The restaurants that have suffered the biggest impact are not only those that rely on local diners, but also those that receive inbound tour groups.   They have almost no diners now.

However, Australia’s coronavirus is under control.  According to AEAAI (Australian Emergency Assistance Association Incorporated), up to this moment, Australia has 15 confirmed cases; four in Melbourne, four in Sydney, five in Queensland and two in South Australia.  And the four from NSW, four from Victoria and two in South Australia have been discharged.  In other words, Melbourne, Sydney and South Australia have no coronavirus patients.

What are Australian governments doing to help?

All levels of government from federal to state to local councils – all of them are strongly supporting this industry.

Federal health minister Mr Hunt said on Twitter:

We are open for business

In Victoria, the health minister announced in Melbourne’s Chinatown on 12 February that all Chinese restaurants and businesses in Victoria are “open for business” and racism and xenophobia have no place in multicultural Victoria.  Victoria’s Health Minister Jenny Mikakos, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton, Chair of Victoria’s Multicultural Affairs Commission Viv Nguyen, and several state MPs, mayors and city councillors, together with Chinese Consul General Long Zhou, and Chinese community leaders joined hands to cheer Wuhan in the presence of mainstream and Chinese media.  Cheer for China!

The minister of health, consul general, and distinguished guests, led by Dr Anne Pang, chanted “Stay Strong Wuhan! Stay Strong, China!”

The minister of health, consul general, and distinguished guests, led by Dr Anne Pang, chanted “Stay Strong Wuhan! Stay Strong, China!”

Teresa Chung President of the Chinese Masonic Society Melbourne Lodge, said in her speech at the beginning of the luncheon that the purpose of holding the event was to listen to accurate information from the state government about the Coronavirus epidemic, to follow the government’s guidelines and policies, and promote public understanding, support and social harmony in the Chinese community.

Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos’s inspiring speech won applause.  She expressed her gratitude and support to the Chinese community and strongly opposed any discrimination and racist acts against Chinese.  She thanked the many Chinese who had isolated themselves for 14 days, effectively preventing the spread of the epidemic.

Dr Brett Sutton, chief health officer in Victoria, said that although the number of deaths caused by the new epidemic had broken through the 1,000 mark worldwide, due to the many effective government measures, more than 500 people in Victoria have been in isolation and only 4 people had been infected with the virus while three have been cleared and discharged from hospital.  Just before the lunch concluded, there was more good news that the last patient had been released from hospital.

Long Zhou, Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Melbourne, briefed the attendees on the latest progress in China’s fight against the epidemic. After defeating the epidemic, China will become stronger and better.   China will always remember the help from Australian governments and its people from all walks of life, he said.

Chinese Consul General Long Zhou, Health Minister Jenny Mikakos and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton were interviewed by Channel 10.

Chinese Consul General Long Zhou, Health Minister Jenny Mikakos and Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton were interviewed by Channel 10.

In his speech, Haha, President of the Australian Emergency Assistance Association, introduced the organisation and how it was helping in purchasing and delivering food and daily necessities to more than 600 families who were in isolation in Australia.  Their slogan is: “We quarantine viruses, but not love and care.”  He said that many Chinese community organisations are actively donating money and materials to epidemic areas in China and are eager to help overseas Chinese returning to Australia for self-isolation.  He called on the Australian community to believe that the Chinese government has the ability to defeat the epidemic; that Australian governments and their departments can overcome the epidemic; and that Chinese in Australia can also triumph over the epidemic.

Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said on Twitter:

On WeChat, it seems many Chinese are actively dining out to support Chinese restaurants with practical action.  Shark Fin House almost fell and we mustn’t let any other restaurants face the same fate.

Tens of thousands of people landed a shot, and it was successful – Let us work together to fight the Coronavirus.  【万人操弓,共射一招,招无不中】

Every drop of kindness can help break a drought 【注入一滴水,难时太平洋】

We all should do our bit to help.


About Shark Fin House

Shark Fin House Restaurant, 131 Little Bourke Street opened in 1989 and is one of the three restaurants operated by the Shark Fin Group.  The other two restaurants, located at 50 Little Bourke Street in Melbourne’s Chinatown and at Keysborough, are still open.

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Thursday 29th October
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