Maxwell hawkers' business hit by MRT works

Hoardings for MRT work around Maxwell Food Centre have given visitors the impression that the food centre, which has over 100 stalls, is closed.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The construction of the Maxwell MRT station, which kicked off early last year, has affected the business of Maxwell Food Centre, with at least 10 stalls closed down and their replacements finding it hard to stay afloat, Shin Min Daily News reported.

The main reason for the dwindled patronage at the food hub, located at the junction of Maxwell and South Bridge roads, is the closure of the carpark at neighbouring Erskine Road in March last year to make way for the MRT facility.

The carpark could accommodate more than 100 vehicles.

As most of the regular customers come in cars, the lack of parking space has made the place their less frequent choice to visit for dining, the Chinese evening daily pointed out.

The newspaper also noted that the centre's main entrance facing South Bridge Road is sealed off to block the dust from the MRT works.

That means most customers have to take a longer way round to get to it, which further weakens its attraction.

Noticing that the stallholders were suffering some knocks in their business, the Government granted a 25 per cent rental rebate to the 103 stalls early this year.

However, many of the stallholders whom Shin Min spoke to on Sunday said the benefit could not make up for the fall in customers.

Some disclosed that in the past 18 months, about 10 stalls had closed.

And the people who took over could not sustain the business for long, with many pulling out within a month.

Some even wound up in a week, they noted, as business was bad.

Shin Min noticed that some of the stalls were vacant and apparently not taken up by anyone at the moment.

According to stallholder Ng Kok Hua, who represents the food centre, they have managed to persuade the Urban Redevelopment Authority, whose building stands next door, to agree to open its carparks on weekends and after 7pm on weekdays to their customers.

However, the 60-year-old seller of ngoh hiang, a sausage-like Chinese delicacy, sees the concessions as still inadequate.

"We hope the carparks can be opened even two hours earlier for our customers," he said.

"We really need help to tide over the next five years. Our regular customers are our life line."

The Maxwell MRT station, an underground stop on the Thomson-East Coast Line located around Kreta Ayer Heights and Chinatown's Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum, is scheduled to be completed in 2021.

Many local delicacies at the Maxwell Food Centre are famous for their special and traditional flavours, such as chicken rice and porridge.

To boost business, the food centre would install an electronic machine every Hungry Ghost Festival - which falls around this time every year - to allow customers to seek "lucky numbers" to try out their chances in Toto and 4-D lotteries.

"Our patrons at noon are mostly young people. This machine perhaps can help attract more of them here," said Mr Ng.

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