As soon as whispers of a deadly, fast spreading virus began in December 2019, there arose a false assumption that Asian Americans were the source of the contagion. AAPI small businesses across the country, including here in the Denver Metro Area, began to feel the impact of Anti-Asian bias almost immediately. While other minority owned businesses were still busy and open, Asian-owned businesses, particularly Asian owned restaurants, reported to the ACC a 30-40% drop in business before the quarantine began in mid-March 2020.
It started gradually - customers stopped shopping at Asian-owned retail stores and grocers, diners stopped going to their favorite dim sum & pho restaurants. The wave of local anti-Asian bias that started with taunts of “go back to where you came from” had intensified by summer to assault and vandalism. Customers and employees had been verbally intimidated when entering Asian owned establishments. Business owners reported broken storefront windows and racial epithet graffiti. Offenders had trespassed onto properties to vandalize and even destroy shelves of inventory. On social media there was an increase of false and intentionally offensive Yelp reviews of Asian-owned service markets and restaurants.
The anti-Asian discrimination affects not just urban areas – Asian-owned establishments in mountain and rural areas in Colorado are also struggling. The Post Independent (serving Glenwood Springs and Garfield County) cites a Chinese restaurant owner who reported, “…weekly foot traffic shrunk from 500-600 patrons to about half that today.”
Nationwide advocacy groups have recorded over 3,800 incidents of these types of crimes just from March 2020 to today – over 500 incidents just in 2021 - 44+ in Colorado. Asian hate crimes have increased 150% since the start of the pandemic.
The shocking attacks targeting Asian elders and the tragic shooting of six Asian women in Atlanta has compounded the fear and anger within the community.
Despite the nation and Colorado moving to less restrictive levels on the COVID19 dial, Asian-owned small businesses face the added challenge of restoring their customer base – customers who have been suspicious and prejudiced of them for over a year. Additionally, business owners incur the cost of repairing damaged property and inventory, and even safety trainings to keep staff & customers safe.
According to a CNBC report, research shows Asian-owned businesses saw the biggest decline in working business owners through the end of 2020. Another report from the US Census states there are over 2 million Asian American-owned businesses servicing neighborhoods across the country. With 42% of them in "Accommodation and Food Services" and "Retail" industries, versus just 21% of all businesses, Asian American businesses have been hard hit.
Admittedly, a number of Asian-owned small businesses in the Metro Area have closed as a result of COVID19 restrictions coupled with Anti-Asian bias. Even so, in spite of dim prospects, the AAPI Community is resilient and determined to recover. Owing to the cultural practice of relying on family to staff and provide capital during hard times, the majority of Asian-owned businesses will survive and endure. The ACC strongly encourages our Small Business partners to take advantage of every opportunity available. Both the State and City offer several types of COVID relief. Many charitable foundations, non-profits and anchor corporations offer grants, loan assistance, in-kind contributions, and free consultations.
To our Members and Partners who stand in solidarity against Anti-Asian Hate and wish to show their support – the ACC encourages you to return to your favorite Asian restaurants and go back to your local Asian grocers - THANK YOU FOR SUPPORTING ASIAN OWNED SMALL BUSINESSES.
President / CEO
Asian Chamber of Commerce