Beauty World food centre hawkers face uncertain future

SINGAPORE - Hawkers at Beauty World Centre's fourth-floor food centre face an uncertain future, as a deadline to move out by Feb 11 has been extended to an unspecified date.

Stallholders told The Straits Times on Monday (Feb 6) they are unsure whether they can stay on, with a potential sale of the privately-owned food centre complicated by a lack of communication from management.

To date, the authorities have not been informed of any intentions for it to close. In a statement to ST, the National Environment Agency said it has not received any notice from the licensee on intentions to cease business or cancel its licence. The centre's food shop license is valid until November this year.

The Straits Times reported last April (2016) that a mystery buyer had offered $17.5 million to buy the open-air food centre at the strata-titled mall in Upper Bukit Timah and redevelop it in into an air-conditioned food court.

Stallholders said that the status of the sale is uncertain as not all have agreed to it.

But they were issued notices around Chinese New Year by a trustee for the food centre, which stated that they would have to move out by Feb 11. Continuing operations beyond this date would incur fines from the authorities, the note said.

Photo: The Straits Times

However, they were later told on Sunday (Feb 5) that they would be able to stay on until further notice, with rumours of the extension lasting until May.

The food centre's managing agent Wisely 98 declined to comment when queried by The Straits Times, deferring questions to one of the food centre's trustees, Mr Lai Chong Lee.

Mr Lai, who operates a stall at the food centre, has not been seen in several days, hawkers said.

Several of the 41 stalls at the food centre have moved out in recent weeks, including burger stall Hanbaobao and ramen stall Buta Kin.

Mr Sam Kin Sun, owner of Buta Kin, said that he had moved out on Jan 26 as he was told that the food centre would be closing on Feb 11. Mr Sam, 34, will be reopening his stall at a coffeeshop in Bedok later this month.

Madam Annie Cheong, 64, who has run the Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Noodle Rice stall for five years, said that she will take a break before reopening elsewhere if the hawker centre is sold.

Another stallholder of 10 years, who declined to be named, said: "Everyone is very uncertain about what's going on - we don't know if we should order more stock or start looking for a stall elsewhere."

"Some of the other owners have already started moving their equipment out only to be told later that they could continue operations."

This article was first published on Feb 7, 2017.
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