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Exodus of 15 hawker stalls at Amoy Street Food Centre, high rental bids cited as main reason 

Exodus of 15 hawker stalls at Amoy Street Food Centre, high rental bids cited as main reason 
As many as 15 vacant stalls have been spotted at Amoy Street Food Centre recently, something unheard of during the pre-pandemic days.
PHOTO: Facebook/AmoystreetFC

Amoy Street Food Centre, home to a wide variety of affordable hawker eats. 

A firm favourite with the Central Business District crowd, it is regarded as the default dining spot for most office workers in the area.

However, all is not well.

A quick scan of the iconic two-storey hawker centre revealed that as many as 15 stalls are currently vacant, according to a recent 8world report

Zheng Xiangming, a 37-year-old drinks stall owner located on the ground floor, shared with 8world that that this wasn't always the case. 

He said that there were almost no vacant stalls at the hawker centre before the pandemic, but the 15 stalls have been vacant for a few months now.

Despite the relaxing of Covid-19 restrictions in April, and a healthy lunch crowd, stallholders told the Chinese news outlet that the current foot traffic is only hitting 80 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels. This fall in customers is down to the large number of office workers still working from home.

Speaking to 8world, a ground floor rice bowl stall owner explained that some of the vacant stalls were run by young entrepreneurs who were first-time hawkers. 

But due to a high starting rent, many of these young hawkers closed after a few months as they could not generate enough income to make ends meet.

Amoy Street Food Centre is managed by National Environment Agency (NEA). To secure a stall there, hawkers submit monthly rental bids during NEA's monthly tender exercises. Stalls are awarded to the highest bidder.

"Amoy Street Food Centre is very famous. Everyone thinks there will be good business here, so they want to come here and try to set up a stall. But many find that the business is not as good as expected. They cannot sustain it and the stall closes after a few months."

Another reason cited for the exodus of hawkers at Amoy Street Food Centre is that many ex-coffee shop vendors overbid on rental prices and were unable to sustain their stalls in the long run.

Xiangming explained that these ex-coffee shop vendors were motivated to bid high rental prices because of the draw of heavy rent and services subsidies handed out by the government during the pandemic. This alongside rising coffee shop rent resulted in the perfect storm at Amoy Street Food Centre. 

"Some of the stalls listed moved here from coffee shops. They believe that hawker centre vendors enjoy government subsidies during the epidemic, so it is more secure to set up stalls in hawker centres. Now coffee shop rents are also rising, so some come from coffee shops. They are all used to high rents, and they are willing to bid no matter how high they are."

Also, it probably didn't help that the food centre was closed between last October till January this year for renovations.

According to The Straits Times, the National Environment Agency (NEA) stated that all the cost were borne by the statutory board, and with no rent increase after.

According to NEA, the stall occupancy rate of Amoy Street Food Centre was about 90 per cent last month, out of a total of 135 stalls. 

ALSO READ: 46-year-old Hokkien braised duck stall at Amoy Street goes halal to delight of Muslim community

It said that most vacant hawker stalls are filled within three months after tenders are launched.

NEA added that most of the vacant Amoy Street Food Centre stalls were currently undergoing works to restore their original set-up.

According to NEA's website, there were three successful bids in the month of August, ranging from $3,200 to $3,633.

So far, the highest monthly rental bid ever received for an Amoy Street Food Centre stall was $4,988 back in 2018. The second highest bid came this February for $4,688.

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