East Coast food village to undergo sea change

SINGAPORE - The famed East Coast Lagoon Food Village is closing for its first major renovation in a decade, less than two months after a fire gutted four stalls in Singapore's only seaside hawker centre.

The $1.5 million overhaul, which will see it shuttered for three months - from Aug 19 to Nov 18 - was already scheduled before the blaze.

It will give the food haven refurbished toilets, a fresh coat of paint, as well as more tables and chairs that will boost seating capacity beyond the current 1,470. New fixtures, such as roofing and timber flooring on walkways, will also be installed.

The hawker centre was last renovated in 2003.

Although stallholders do not have to pay for the facelift, some are worried about the long break, especially since there are no plans to set up a temporary hawker centre in the interim.

Others added that three months of no income would be tough on them as it was not long enough a period to seek gainful employment elsewhere.

"I've been trying to find work repairing boats, which was my previous job," said a 53-year-old drinks stall assistant who wanted to be known only as Mr Wang. "And if I can't find work in Singapore, then I'll have to go overseas, because I still have two school- going children to feed."

Of the six hawker centres listed on the National Environment Agency website myHawkers.sg as being up for repairs and redecoration this year, the East Coast centre was scheduled for the longest closure at three months.

The makeovers for the other hawker centres were estimated to take one to two months.

But other stallholders preferred to look on the bright side.

"In 2003, we closed for a year, so this isn't that bad," said hokkien mee seller Ng Mui Mui, 59. "I'll be doing some housework and meeting some old friends in the next three months, and hoping the renovations will turn out nice."

The hawker centre - described on the Singapore Tourism Board's Your Singapore website as "the epicentre of barbecued seafood" - is also famed for its satay, laksa and oyster cake.

Patrons who spoke to The Straits Times yesterday said they enjoyed both the food and the centre's unique seaside ambience. Most were also unaware of the impending closure.

Said sales assistant Rachael Sim, 26: "I think it's a good time for them to renovate the hawker centre, but I hope the prices won't rise when they reopen."

yanliang@sph.com.sg

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