Marina Square eateries feel impact of rat incident

SINGAPORE - Business at some eateries at Marina Square has fallen by 30 per cent to 50 per cent after a dead rat was found in a dish of salted vegetables at a hotpot restaurant there earlier this month.

At The Corner Place Korean BBQ, on the fourth floor next to Hotpot Culture, the eatery in hot water for the rodent incident, takings have dropped by 30 per cent.

"Customers would ask if we're related to Hotpot Culture," said its part-time manager Alvin Goh, 27. "There has not been much of a crowd on this whole level."

At chicken rice restaurant Wee Nam Kee on the same floor, there were empty tables at lunchtime yesterday, instead of the usual long queues.

Eateries on other levels have not been spared either.

The manager of a restaurant on the second floor said takings have fallen by half, with just a handful of its 48 tables filled at lunchtime yesterday.

At Korean restaurant Seoul Yummy, takings have also halved. Since the Jan 9 incident at Hotpot Culture, Seoul Yummy's pest control operators have visited once a week to check for rats, said its manager Jessy Leong, 40.

"We're normally full at lunch, but today, there were just five to six tables filled. We even had a customer who asked if our restaurant has rats," she added.

Eateries said the rodents may not be entirely to blame, as business usually dips before Chinese New Year, as shoppers head to Chinatown instead.

Still, news that the National Environment Agency (NEA) recently found signs of rodents in the false ceilings of 14 food outlets at the mall and at one of its bin centres has further shaken shoppers.

"I am a little bothered by it," said musician Andrew Ng, 55, who had not known of other rat sightings except for that at Hotpot Culture before he was interviewed yesterday.

Mr Ng, who was having lunch at the mall's only foodcourt, said: "Now I'll look at how hygienic the eatery is before eating."

Meanwhile, Hotpot Culture's suspension, in place since Jan 9, has not been lifted by the NEA.

But when it reopens, its owner Wilson Lim, 58, plans to hold a one-day "open house" for patrons to dine for free.

To prove the restaurant is now rat-free, his staff have left dried shrimp in the storeroom overnight for the past few nights. This has been left untouched, he said.

Mr Lim said pest control operators had first flagged concerns about a rat infestation in his restaurant last August.

"The nests were not within the restaurant, so it must have come from outside," he said.

He had informed his landlord, foodcourt operator Koufu, about it then, he added. But Mr Eric Seow, area manager of Marina Square's Koufu, said the pest control operators hired by Koufu did not find any sign of rats then.

Last October, NEA conducted a thorough inspection of 77 food outlets in the mall following a rodent sighting. It took action against 12 food outlets with evidence of rodent activity and four outlets with food scraps on the floor. NEA said no further feedback was received until the Hotpot Culture incident.

Asked what the mall management is doing to get rid of rats, a spokesman said it has an appointed pest control firm that carries out regular inspections and treatments at the mall's common areas. "Under the lease and NEA's guidelines, tenants are responsible for pest management control within their premises," she said.

This article was first published on Jan 28, 2015.
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