Weekend business booming at dorms

SINGAPORE - Mr Jamal Abdul Wahab, who runs a beer garden in Jurong Penjuru Dormitory 1, has been enjoying his best business in years over the past two weekends.

Workers are flocking to his cafe to drink beer instead of going to Little India in the wake of the riot a fortnight ago.

Last Sunday, Mr Jamal sold 25 cartons of beer - each containing 24 cans.

That was up from around 16 cartons on previous weekends. He stocked up on 50 cartons yesterday, sold 40 and is offering special discounts on selected brews to draw even more customers.

"Workers don't want to go to Little India because they are afraid of getting into trouble," he said."But better for me - my business is so good."

Minimarts, food stalls and retail shops in dormitories and recreation centres told The Straits Times yesterday that business has spiked by up to 50 per cent for the past two Sundays, fuelled by workers staying in on their rest days.

There were snaking queues at the ATMs at Jurong Penjuru Dormitory 1 and the supermarket in the Singapore Contractors Association Limited's (Scal) recreation centre in Jurong West.

Mr Zhang Kui, a supervisor at Scal's supermarket, said he had about 2,000 customers on each of the past two Sundays, up from the usual number of about 1,500.

"I asked five more part-time staff to work for the past two Sundays because the crowd is so big," he said.

"We don't want the workers to queue for too long to pay."

Other business owners such as Mr Ye Huaqing, who runs a cellphone shop in Scal's recreation centre, expect crowds to continue swelling in the coming months.

Mr Ye had about 1,000 customers yesterday, about 400 more than usual.

"The workers tell me that they won't be going to Little India for a few months," he said.

"Their bosses said not to go and they also don't want to be questioned by police there."

Mr George Tan, who runs a clothes stall at Jurong Penjuru Dormitory 2, said: "I will be bringing in more T-shirts and other clothes for next weekend because the workers tell me they would rather not go out on Sunday."

Many workers are afraid of a repeat of the Dec 8 riot and will be staying away from Serangoon Road in the near future.

Indian national oil and gas worker K. Samynathan, 32, who was drinking in the beer garden at Jurong Penjuru Dormitory 1, said: "I don't want any trouble. Drinking in dorm is better. After I drink, I go to sleep. Tomorrow, I have to wake up early to work."

Other workers chose to spend their Sunday playing sports.

Scal recreation centre's cricket field and basketball and badminton courts were packed with more than 300 workers from the late afternoon.

And dormitories even showed hit Bollywood movies.

Construction site supervisor Senthil Raja, 36, who was playing cricket with his friends, said: "There should be more cricket fields in Singapore. Playing cricket keeps us happy."

Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran, who visited the Scal and Penjuru recreation centres yesterday, said on his Facebook page that he was glad that the workers had places to catch up with friends and play sports.

Some workers chose to hang out at areas near dorms.

Many relaxed in fields near Jurong East MRT and Boon Lay MRT stations.

Indian national construction worker Prakash Thakur, 23, who was at Jurong East MRT station yesterday, said: "We don't want to go to Little India and get into trouble. Over here nearer and no problem and it is quiet."

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