Still waiting for that Lau Pa Sat lunch

SINGAPORE - The historic Lau Pa Sat hawker centre in the Central Business District, a favourite among the lunchtime office crowd, remains shuttered a month after it was due to open in November.

And it does not look like the wait will be over any time soon. MyPaper understands that it will take about two more months before patrons get to see its $4-million facelift.

When MyPaper visited the gazetted national monument on Tuesday, it was still boarded up. Stalls inside had been demolished and reduced to wooden pieces strewn all over the floor.

Only a few stalls, on the building's periphery, remained in operation.

According to construction workers on the site, including a project manager, the delay has been caused by "permit issues" since renovations started in September.

When asked about the hold-up, Kopitiam, which is to operate Lau Pa Sat, would only say that it is not unusual to have a "longer buffer" in such big projects.

Spokesman Evonne Tay could not provide an opening date.

"Our Lau Pa Sat renovation project is of a much larger scale than that of a foodcourt, in terms of size and number of tenants who are involved," the spokesman said.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority said that it has given Kopitiam provisional permission to do additions and alteration work on Lau Pa Sat. "This enables the operator to begin preparatory works, such as the removal of existing fixtures," a spokesman said.

Since then, the operator and its consultants have been working on their plans for final clearance with the relevant agencies, she added.

Mr Jefri Jumain, who runs five of the 11 stalls in Satay Street which have been allowed to remain open throughout the renovations, said that he is unhappy with the delay.

The stalls in the street sell mostly satay. They are open from 3pm on weekends and 7pm on weekdays. Drinks from a nearby Kopitiam foodcourt are sold to its patrons.

"We don't even know what is happening. This delay is bad for us because we are selling limited food and the customer base is shrinking," he said.

He added that he has seen several tourists leaving disappointed when they do not get the seafood they were looking for.

Diners who frequently visit the hawker centre had expected it to be open last month. They said it is sorely missed.

Ms Audrey Ng, 29, a personal assistant who works at SGX Centre 1 just opposite, said: "I have to walk some distance to go the next-nearest foodcourt. It's hard to find cheaper prices of the likes of Lau Pa Sat."

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