Boon Lay Raja goes on sale for $15m

SINGAPORE - The owners of the popular Boon Lay Raja Restaurant in Jurong East are looking to sell the space for around $15 million and enjoy a well-earned retirement.

The four friends who started the eatery in 1979 are in their late 60s and 70s and want to put their feet up.

"I am getting on in years and my partners and I all want to take a break," said managing director Tan Kweng Nam in Mandarin.

Mr Tan, 73, told The Straits Times last night that business is doing well.

Sales reaches $30,000 on a good day but, with no successors in sight, he said this was an opportune time to look ahead.

"The venue is in a good location, which makes the decision for us to sell the restaurant an easier one," he said.

Mr Tan hopes a new owner will run the business. Much, however, depends on the eventual outcome of the bid.

He has also pledged to keep running the restaurant until Chinese New Year so customers will not be disappointed.

The 11,248 sq ft premises in Block 135, Jurong Gateway Road has 69 years left on its lease from the Housing and Development Board (HDB).

Its reserve price of $15 million works out to $1,334 psf. The tender closes at 3pm on Nov 6.

Real estate agency Savills Singapore said the space is zoned for restaurant purposes, but that the HDB may allow a change of use.

"This is a rare opportunity for restaurateurs facing escalating rentals to operate on their own premises, and establish or consolidate their presence in this highly sought-after location," said Mr Derrick Tan, Savills Singapore's associate director of investment sales, in a statement.

Boon Lay Raja is a proudly old-fashioned Chinese restaurant that has long been a popular venue for wedding dinners.

Its dining room seats up to 600 people and guests are served traditional fare such as dim sum, shark's fin soup, and braised pork trotters.

Some long-time patrons dined there last night after learning that the restaurant was for sale.

Mrs Kai Tan, 29, who has been eating at Boon Lay Raja since she was a child, said: "I thought, what if the owner is not able to find a buyer and decides to shut down the business? Then I would not be able to eat this food again."

Her husband, Mr Tan Wei Jie, 32, said most of their family dinners are held at the restaurant, which they like as it serves good quality food at a reasonable price.

"We pay $100 for a dinner for five adults," he said. "We have soup, a poultry dish, vegetables and tofu. It is simple food, but it tastes good and that's why we keep coming back."

Other patrons described the food as having "a flavour of home".

Engineer Eileen Yap, 31, who was at the restaurant with two colleagues, said: "The steamed fish and steamed prawns have the flavours of home-cooked food. There is something about their freshness and simple cooking style."

Patrons listed spring chicken, shark's fin soup and mango roasted duck as must-try dishes.

Engineer Tan Seu Guan, 37, said: "My friends and I always order the spring chicken. But it is not just the food that brings us back; this place feels like home."

This article was first published on Oct 9, 2014.
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