Traders say weekday footfall through Gerrard Street and the district’s warren of other roads around Shaftesbury Avenue is still only 10 to 15 per cent of normal, compared with around 25 per cent in other parts of central London.
Business began to drop off as early as the end of January when the first reports of the coronavirus started to emerge from Wuhan. Christine Yau, vice-chairman of the London Chinatown Chinese Association, said she closed down her 34-year-old Greek Street restaurant YMing just a week after reopening on “Super Saturday”.
She said: “We reopened because a lot of our regular customers had been asking when we were coming back. But it has been very tough. It’s turned out to be so quiet that there’s no point in staying open. I wasn’t even taking enough to pay the electricity bill.
“A few regulars came back but the people who live further away aren’t travelling in. It is also certainly unhelpful that the congestion charge now has to be paid on Saturdays and Sundays. That’s another £15, it all adds up.” She is hoping to reopen again in August.
Kay Man, owner of Candy Cafe on Macclesfield Street, where he pays £60,000 a year in rent, reopened for takeaways and deliveries in May but said that on the worst days he was selling just one £3.80 bubble tea, “not even enough to keep the water boiler on”.
He added: “In the last two weeks since the relaxation we have seen some more people come in, but it is just our regulars, there are no new customers.”
Lucy Mitchell, managing director of SeeWoo, which owns a supermarket on Lisle Street, said turnover fell more than 90 per cent during the lockdown and has barely recovered. She has put 45 out of her 55 staff on furlough but said she will have to start making redundancies next month if business does not start to pick up.