Wed, May 14, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Taiwanese pulling the plug on entertainment

By Kevin Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Taiwanese love the pub scene and love to sing karaoke, but in recent days many have scaled back on entertainment spending in the wake of the SARS outbreak.

Holiday Entertainment Co (好樂迪娛樂事業), one of the nation's two largest karaoke chains, forecasts the spread of the virus will undercut 20 percent of its sales this month, or NT$44.92 million, from last month, company vice president Yang Chang-heng (楊昌恆) said yesterday.

"Customers not wishing to contract the virus in public are seeking alternative means of entertainment,'' Yang said after news broke that there was a suspected case of SARS in a Tainan City karaoke.

``With rising SARS infections, it's obvious we're going to see a negative impact on our sales,'' Yang said.

Holiday, which operates 62 karaoke outlets around the na-tion, has tightened hygiene to avoid the spread of SARS.

Local businesses fear their stores may have to shut down if one or two employees are found to have contracted the disease.

"We have adopted precautions for both employees and customers," Yang said. "No one is allowed in without washing their hands and having their temperature taken first."

The SARS impact could be far more serious than the 921 earthquake, a nightclub operator said yesterday.

"I have never seen anything like this," said Ted Huang (黃一哲), who co-manages the trendy Eden bar in Taipei's Dinghao area. "We could estimate how bad the quake would affect us because it rocked and then it stopped, but we have no idea about when the disease will stop hurting us."

Traffic to Eden -- which occupies the 10th and 11th floors of the new food and entertainment complex, Bistro 98 -- dropped significantly after health authorities shut the Taipei Municipal Hoping Hospital on April 24.

"Our sales are expected to decline by 25 percent this month from the previous month," Huang said.

SARS continued to take its toll on businesses as 39.96 percent of 2,226 companies surveyed by the Ministry of Economic Affairs between April 15 and April 21 said the outbreak would affect their second quarter sales.

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