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|Photo: VN Express|
Bui Vien 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. Many bar 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 Bach Nguyen, a lounge owner on Bui Vien Street. Bach 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", the business remained poor, said Vietnamnet.
Some businesses have switched to selling snacks or dishes related to snails to attract young customers, while others are serving during lunchtime, with local dishes offered to people working nearby. At 9 pm 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. “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,” Thien Trần, a business owner on Bui Vien, said.
The restaurant had no choice but to reduce its staff, even though Thien 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, according to Vietnam News.
Business venues on Bui Vien Street are usually rented at US$4,000 to 5,000 per house. Although Thien’s friend was offered a 30 percent 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, Bui Vien Street used to be filled with many foreigners looking for affordable places to stay.
|Photo: VN Express|
According to Sai Gon Giai Phong (SGGP) newspaper, hotels and guesthouses have been more severely affected than food and beverage businesses, with numerous hotels and hostels temporarily closed. Hoa Pham, a hotel owner on a small alley on Bui Vien Street, said that her business had been on hold for months as 75 percent 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.
Talking to Vo Quoc Thanh, the owner of 3 bars and restaurants in the area, SGGP reporters learned that many establishments like his tried to switch professions, offering breakfast and lunch and other street food that might be more appealing to regular folks. “It’s not been really effective though; this area has been associated with foreigners and tourists that are willing to spend, so people assume our current prices are also inflated”, Thanh remarked.
Bui Vien walking street, or “Westerner street” as the locals call it, at its best used to see some 2,000-5,000 visitors each night. Having mostly provided services to foreign visitors, restaurant and hotel owners at Bui Vien were left hanging by a thread as the epidemic limited travel across the world. Bui Vien pedestrian street has 90 venues open for food and beverage-related activities, and 40 of them have closed down. The street has gone through several shut down due to COVID-19. According to District 1 People’s Committee, of the 20 newly established businesses in the area, 8 shut down within the same year.
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