Too close for comfort?

Too close for comfort?

SINGAPORE - Although it has been issued several warnings and fined $500 thrice by the authorities, this eatery isn't budging.

Since it opened eight years ago, the restaurant owners of Tang Tea House at Bedok Road have placed more than 20 tables on the pavement of the main road and on the service road.

This is done even though vehicles go so close to the tables that a customer could easily touch a car just by reaching out.

But the practice of roadside dining is still going strong, even after an accident a fortnight ago, when a taxi slammed into a Siglap bistro along East Coast Road. 

Tang Tea House's tables occupy nearly half of the service road, causing traffic to slow to a crawl to avoid the outdoor dining area, where more than 300 customers sit daily.

This is not allowed, said the Land Transport Authority (LTA).

Under the Street Works Act, shop owners have to keep five-foot ways, public walkways and public streets clear so as not to impede the movement of pedestrians, he added.

The New Paper understands that the maximum fine under the act is $2,000. Repeat offenders may have their licenses revoked.

However, outdoor dining areas are allowed if they follow guidelines set out by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. (See report on facing page).

Since October, enforcers from various government agencies have been telling the restaurant to remove the tables and chairs from the road, its owners claimed.

One of them, Mr Tan Keng Hoon, 58, said that doing so would cause him to lose most of his revenue.

He said: "Seventy per cent of the people who come here want to sit outdoors. If you take this away, we cannot do business.

"We know that it is a safety issue, but it is not like we insist on doing so. It is a response to a need.

"Sometimes, on a busy day, customers even tell us to set up more tables outside."

Part of his restaurant is also undergoing renovation.

This limits the indoor sitting areas for customers, said Mr Tan.

He felt the Siglap incident should not result in the authorities toughening its stance towards shop owners.

He said: "(The accident) was upsetting, but it is not in everyone's best interest if the authorities clamp down on all outdoor dining areas because of it.

"They must first understand why people prefer sitting outdoors."

To protect his customers, he said, his employees would warn customers of oncoming vehicles and would ask those with young children to sit indoors.

Another manager of a 24-hour coffee shop at South Bridge Road said she would be forced to close down if the authorities made her remove the outdoor tables, some of which are beside a busy bus lane.

Only 10 of its 30 tables are within her eatery's premises.

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