End of an era: 44-year-old Joo Chiat bak kut teh restaurant to close today due to manpower shortage

A well-loved bak kut teh store along Joo Chiat Road with 44 years of history is closing its doors today, marking what people have called "the end of an era".

The Lau Hock Guan Kee Bak Kut Teh, Fish Head Curry and Steam Fish restaurant had humble beginnings as a street stall along Dunman Road in 1973, according to reports by Lianhe Wanbao.

Originally started by two brothers - Chen Jingfu and Chen Jingyuan - the store shifted to its current location at 328 Joo Chiat Road in 1985 and has been making a name for itself since with its signature pork rib broth and curry fish head.

However, after older brother Chen Jingfu passed away in March this year, his 67-year-old younger brother has been experiencing manpower shortages, especially after his longtime employee of 30 years quit in March this year to care for her husband's health.

Previously, his older brother used to take the morning shift while he was responsible for the evening crowd.

Chen Jingyuan told Lianhe Wanbao that they had been unable to retain staff for the past two years and that local workers expressed wishes to quit after only two days.

He added that extended family members used to offer their help but could no longer afford the time after they became busy with looking after their grandchildren.

After news of the beloved eatery closing its shutters for the last time started to spread, many customers took to social media to share fond recollections of the place.

Of course, this was in addition to flocking over to get one last taste of their favourite dishes.

Li Youfu, a 75-year-old retiree and loyal patron of 35 years, told Lianhe Wanbao that three generations of his family grew up eating at the restaurant.

Since finding out about their impending closure last week, he rushed over to have one last meal for memories' sake.

Another regular customer, Zhong Jiwen, is a 40-year-old chef who lives in Tampines and has visited the restaurant at least 10 times after hearing about its forthcoming closure.

"The chef's skills are commendable and the food is worth its price, so even I as a chef find it delicious," he said in the Lianhe Wanbao report.