Step into car-free zones at Haji Lane, Bussorah Street and Bali Lane

Bussorah Street and Bali Lane, pedestrianised on weekends, plan activities to woo more people

Each weekend, hipster enclave Haji Lane comes alive when the area becomes a car-free zone.

By day, stylishly dressed youth roam freely as they check out quirky boutiques that line the street. By night, locals and tourists relax outdoors on chairs and tables put out by bar and restaurant owners.

Now, tenants in neighbouring Bali Lane and Bussorah Street are hoping to cultivate a similar atmosphere in their vicinities with a new trial to pedestrianise their roads on weekends too.

During the six-month trial, which started last Dec 26, the roads are closed to traffic between 6pm and midnight on Friday and from noon to midnight on the weekend. Haji Lane observes the same road-closure hours.

Although tenants tell Life! the trial has yet to translate to higher footfall and sales, they hope it will gain more traction in the coming months, with plans to organise street activities in the future.

Similar to Haji Lane, the tenant mix in Bali Lane is a hodgepodge of restaurants, bars and cafes as well as grooming salons and a clothing store. Bussorah Street, which already has a stretch permanently closed to traffic, features many tourist gift shops, textile stores and restaurants offering Middle Eastern cuisine.

A spokesman for the Urban Redevelopment Authority says the trial was proposed by business owners in the Kampong Glam precinct, "encouraged by the success of Haji Lane".

The car-free initiative was so that "more visitors could enjoy the historic district safely", he added.

Haji Lane has been pedestrianised from Friday to Sunday since 2013 and the initiative is now managed by the newly formed One Kampong Gelam association.

The association was officially formed last year and comprises about 50 tenants, landlords and other stakeholders in the Kampong Glam area, which stretches from Victoria Street and Ophir Road to Aliwal Street and North Bridge Road.

Mr Saeid Labbafi, 45, the interim chairman of the association, says the pedestrianisation of Haji Lane "worked very well" in making the area more vibrant. He hopes the trial will bring similar success to Bali Lane and Bussorah Street.

He says the two streets have not "gotten the same result yet", but this is due to the fact that tenants, especially food-and-beverage operators, have not received approval to extend their seating outdoors onto the roads.

Outside of Kampong Glam, other places that have benefited from implementing car-free zones include Club Street, which is closed to traffic on Friday and Saturday from 7pm to 2am; and Circular Road, which is closed from 6pm to 1am on Friday and Saturday.

Ms Anitha Immanuel, 32, place manager of urban planning and architecture with Singapore River One (SRO), which represents the interests of tenants in Circular Road, says footfall in the area increased by 45 per cent a year after the pedestrianisation trial started in 2013.

She adds that the SRO is working with the authorities on the possibilities of having street activities in Circular Road. Now, even though traffic is not let through, the street needs to be kept clear for emergency access. Businesses also use carpark spaces as outdoor dining areas.

Mr Sumeet Singla, 36, owner of five-month-old Italian eatery Pizza Fabbrica in Bussorah Street, welcomes the pedestrianisation trial in his neighbourhood. He has noticed more families coming into the area "as there is no traffic, so it's safe for pedestrians".

"Bussorah Street leads to the Sultan Mosque, so a lot of people want to take photos and walk around the area, but vehicle traffic takes away this freedom. That is why I hope they extend the road closure to weeknights too," he says.

At Bali Lane, Mr Jam Ignite, 43, who recently opened a New York-inspired halal cafe called & why... with two partners, is hoping for street activities, such as an artists' market or street festival, to drive more traffic to the area.

Mr Ignite, who also owns popular halal Western restaurant I am... in Haji Lane, notes that there have been fewer visitors to the area after the recent ban of shisha.

The Government banned the import, distribution and sale of the tobacco product last November, but operators with existing licences are allowed to continue selling it until the permits expire. The move affected many tenants in Haji Lane and Arab Street, whose businesses depended greatly on the sale of the shisha.

He says: "Shisha was the main draw for many people in this area, but after the ban, you can see fewer people coming down."

Newcomers such as F&B entrepreneur Loh Lik Peng, 42, who recently opened bar LongPlay in Haji Lane, are optimistic that more visitors will return to the area with time.

He says: "Now that shisha parlours are being weeded out, there's been a growing mix of hipster cafes, bespoke cocktail bars and live music bars like Sing Jazz and Blu Jaz, alongside the remaining quirky fashion stores."

"The tenant mix seems to move towards being more varied and attracting a mix of visitors as a result. This may be a good thing for us," he adds.

Kampong Glam tenants that Life!Weekend spoke to say they support any initiatives or organised activities during the road closures that would help make the area more vibrant.

Mr Yeo Chern Yu, 23, co-owner of Stateland Cafe and yogurt parlour Honeycomb in Bali Lane, says he had participated in a street carnival held there last October, setting up booths selling food and coffee.

He says: "It was quite a bustling event. As we have been in Bali Lane for only a little over a year, we look forward to more of those events and we will try our best to participate."

Kampong Glam regulars such as Mr Mohammed Jan Solihn Donyada, 28, say the pedestrianisation of more roads will hopefully bring more visitors.

The business development executive in a tech start-up says: "I really like the atmosphere here and it's quite a hipster place. I have a routine where I eat at I am... in Haji Lane and have a teh tarik in Bussorah Street after.

"Maybe, with the road closure, more people will come here and follow my routine, though I think some guys already do."

melk@sph.com.sg


LONGPLAY

A bar that prides itself as a vinyl-only joint, offering classic cocktails and gourmet bites. Opened by the same folks behind popular restaurants and bars such as Pollen, Esquina and The Study, the 50-capacity venue offers a spot where audiophiles can enjoy quality tipple and old-school tunes on vinyl, from jazz to motown.

Order this: Try the Rock Island Iced Tea (gin, vodka, rum, tequila, curacao, and lemon, $20), LongPlay's refreshing take on the classic Long Island Tea. A more spirit-forward option is the Marlon Brando (cognac, maple syrup, beer reduction, ginger ale, $20), a stiff drink that pays tribute to the late American film icon.

The bar has a small selection of gourmet bites, including buttermilk chicken nuggets served with a mildly spicy "coronation sauce" ($12) and Togarashi Squid ($14), which is like fried calamariwith Japanese chilli pepper seasoning and served with a harissa (Tunisian hot chilli pepper) dip.

Address: 4 Haji Lane

Hours: 6pm to midnight (Tuesday to Thursday), 6pm to 1am (Friday, Saturday and eve of public holiday), 4pm to midnight (Sunday), closed on Monday

Tel: 6291-3323

Info: E-mail groove@longplay.sg

PIZZA FABBRICA

A chic eatery that serves traditional Italian pizzas and pastas with a modern twist. The five-month-old restaurant is a breath of fresh air in Bussorah Street, a go-to place for Malay and Middle Eastern cuisine.

Heading the kitchen is Italian transplant Matteo Boifava, who has more than 18 years of industry experience. The menu offers a good range of classic Italian pastas, antipasti and pizzas. Check with the staff for specials using seasonal ingredients.

Order this: If you like the sweet taste of pumpkin, try the restaurant's popular "Fabbrica" special ($28), a crisp and fluffy pizza which uses pumpkin puree instead of a tomato base, topped with broccolini, sundried tomato and fresh mozzarella.

For a sweet ending to your meal, try the Panna Cotta allo Zafferano ($12), a custardy dessert infused with saffron and served with sambuca red berry compote.

Address: 70 Bussorah Street

Hours: 11.30am to 11pm (Sunday, Tuesday to Thursday), 11.30am to midnight (Friday and Saturday), closed on Monday

Tel: 6291-0434

& WHY...

A month-old halal cafe that serves drip coffee as well as sandwiches and pastries freshly baked in-house. Here, staff look dapper in their shirt, waistcoat and pant ensemble to fit in with the cafe's theme, which draws inspiration from New York delis in the 1940s. The owners of the

500 sq ft cafe are the same people behind successful halal Western restaurant I am..., which opened in Haji Lane about a year ago.

Order this: The owners say the eatery's drip coffee offers something different from espresso in the neighbourhood. There are three types of in-house roasted beans to choose from ($6 to $7), with varying flavour profiles to suit your taste.

The menu boasts a range of open-faced sandwiches, including the Lobster Mobster ($16.90), a lobster roll with mayo and chopped celery, topped with arugula leaves; and the Asparagusto And Pastrami ($18.90), a sandwich with layers of beef pastrami topped with grilled asparagus and Gruyere cheese.

Address: 31 Bali Lane

Hours: 8am to 8pm (Monday to Thursday), 9am to 9pm (Friday to Sunday), closed on Wednesday

Tel: 6291-0993

HONEYCOMB

Opened last October, this dessert parlour serves Korean-style soft-serve topped with real honeycomb and a tiny syringe for diners to squeeze liquid honey into their ice cream or yogurt. The owners also run waffle-and-coffee joint Stateland Cafe a few doors down the road.

Order this: There are only a handful of soft-serve flavours on the menu, but popular choices include the classic yogurt-based soft-serve and matcha with granola. Prices start from $6.

Every order comes with a piece of fresh honeycomb and a honey-filled syringe.

Other options include Honey Chip Chocolate and Apple and Cinnamon.

Address: 30 Bali Lane

Hours: Noon to 10pm daily

Tel: 9800-7628