by An Phương
Business owners on Bùi Viện pedestrian street in downtown Hồ Chi Minh City are suffering from a lack of customers due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bùi Viện and its connecting streets in District 1 are known as a hotspot for entertaining at night and during the weekend. Due to the pandemic, they have faced multiple challenges keeping their businesses alive.
Boheme, a popular pub on Bùi Viện Street in HCM City, has seen a huge drop in the number of customers. VNS Photo An Phương
Many bars bands such as Hair of the Dog, Sahara, Go2 and S.H are now closed.
“It has been very difficult these days. I thought the pandemic would be over soon so I could resume casual business. But we have not been that lucky,” said Bách Nguyễn, a lounge owner on Bùi Viện Street.
Bách added that even though he had offered many promotions, both online and offline such as "buy one get one free" or even "buy one get two free", business remained poor.
Some businesses have switched to selling snacks or dishes related to snails to attract young customers, while others are serving during lunch time, with local dishes offered to people working nearby.
At 9pm during weekdays, the street is lit with many neon signs, but it lacks customers. Many business owners and staff can be seen on the street trying to lure potential guests inside.
The street is lit up with many neon signs but lack visitors. VNS Photo An Phương
“We used to have almost 20 staff who were running back and forth in the restaurant serving customers. The number of staff has reduced to eight and our sales revenue has fallen significantly,” Thiện Trần, a business owner on Bùi Viện, said.
The restaurant had no choice but to reduce its staff, even though Thiện acknowledged that it would create more stress for them. During the lockdown, his staff helped to renovate the restaurant, so he felt guilty laying off some of them.
But his case was not as troublesome as his friend’s, who has had to pay billions of đồng in rent for five branches he manages in the same area.
Business venues on Bùi Viện Street are usually rented at US$4,000 to 5,000 per house. Although Thiện’s friend was offered a 30 per cent discount on the rental fee, it has been difficult to keep his business going.
The situation is not any brighter for accommodation businesses in the area. Before the pandemic hit, Bùi Viện Street used to be filled with many foreigners looking for affordable places to stay.
According to Sài Gòn Giải Phóng (Liberated Sài Gòn) newspaper, hotels and guesthouses have been more severely affected than food and beverage businesses, with numerous hotels and hostels temporarily closed.
Hoà Phạm, a hotel owner on a small alley on Bùi Viện Street, said that her business had been on hold for months as 75 per cent of her guests used to be international visitors. Revenues earned from domestic guests visiting HCM City had not been enough to secure her family income and they had had to live off their savings at the moment.
Some business owners said that authorities should lift some barriers on opening times and the volume of noise on certain streets to develop the night economy.
“The night economy should not ask customers to enjoy their night in silence,” a business owner said.
Bùi Viện pedestrian street has 90 venues open for food and beverage-related activities, and 40 of them have closed down.
According to District 1 authorities, 20 new businesses on Bùi Viện were registered in 2020, but the year also witnessed eight firms calling a halt to their operations. VNS
Many restaurants and lounges on Bùi Viện Street have gone through an upgrade during the pandemic. VNS Photo An Phương