Food haunt Lau Pa Sat's re-opening delayed again

Office workers will have to wait longer to have lunch at Lau Pa Sat, after yet another delay in the re-opening of the national landmark and popular food haunt.

Lau Pa Sat centre manager, Ms Jacqueline Lim, told The Straits Times yesterday that a date for the re-opening has not been firmed up as the centre is still subject to inspection and approval by the relevant authorities.

However, she added that "our renovation work onsite is complete", and the aim is to re-open by next month.

The iconic food centre, built in 1894, was slated to begin operations late last month after it closed on Sept 1 last year for what was to have been a two-month renovation costing $4 million.

This was to be its first major renovation since food court operator Kopitiam took over 17 years ago. But there have been repeated delays, which Kopitiam has blamed on "permit issues" and the scale of the project.

When The Straits Times visited the site yesterday, the building was still boarded up. But inside, the floors were clean and free of debris.

Tenants and hawkers there, however, said they have grown increasingly frustrated at the repeated delays. At least one has asked for his security deposit back, while others hope to be compensated.

Amirtha's Indian Banana Leaf Restaurant owner Selvam P. said he has asked for his deposit of $8,000 back. "At first, they told me it will re-open in two months' time. They didn't inform me about the delay and didn't tell me the exact date when it will open, so I got fed up," said Mr Selvam, 44, who has another stall at Telok Ayer.

Mr S. Anand, 45, one of the owners of Andhra Curry Restaurant, said he has not been told of any re-opening date or even if his stall space has been confirmed. But he is not asking for compensation as he does not have to pay rent while the centre is closed.

The delay has also angered hawkers of the Satay Street located just beside Lau Pa Sat, which has stayed open throughout the renovations.

"My business has dropped by 80 per cent," said Mr Ibrahim Allaudin, 40, owner of Satay Power. "We're only selling satay, customers who come will want to eat seafood and other things as well. All of us are suffering."

He hopes to be compensated, he said, but has not been able to talk to the management.

Despite the frustration, some like Mr Anand are still hanging on and hoping to open a stall at Lau Pa Sat. He said: "It's a good place, prime area, a lot of office people have lunch here."

This article was published on May 14 in The Straits Times.

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