Cafe’s impending exit from Nee Soon South CC surprises patrons

The Buddy Hoagies Cafe and Grill has been serving its Western favourites at Nee Soon South Community Club since 2004.
The Buddy Hoagies Cafe and Grill has been serving its Western favourites at Nee Soon South Community Club since 2004.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Much-loved Nee Soon joint set to be replaced by KFC outlet after failing to secure new lease

For 12 years, the Buddy Hoagies Cafe and Grill has been a fixture at the Nee Soon South Community Club (CC).

But the restaurant will stop serving its Western favourites such as fish and chips and sirloin steak come June 15, after it failed to secure a tender for a new lease.

It is set to be replaced by a KFC outlet, and residents and long-time patrons have expressed disappointment that meals at the family-run cafe will soon be a thing of the past.

Many residents such as Ms Hannah Neo, 34, have been visiting the cafe for many years - in her case since her late 20s.

"It's coming to us as a surprise," said Ms Neo, a part-time lecturer who takes her three-year-old son to the cafe with her. "If a KFC opens here, I will still come, but I don't think it will be as personal or child-friendly."

The cafe has a couch and a small play area for children. Yesterday afternoon, when The Straits Times visited, the cafe was buzzing though it was not lunchtime.

Patrons lounged on the couch and chatted. On the walls were faded posters of singers such as the Beatles, Barbra Streisand and Michael Jackson.

Crane operator Yeo Hock Wah, 58, will miss the set lunches, where patrons can get a main course, soup and drink for less than $10. "The food here is affordable and very nice. I will miss this place," he said.

The cafe's owner, Mrs Theresa Ng, said the neighbourhood joint has been through some tough times, especially at the start, when business was very quiet.

"When we took over in 2004, no one knew about this place," said Mrs Ng, who is resigned to looking for another space.

Buddy Hoagies has two other outlets, one in Bukit Timah Shopping Centre and the other in Waterway Point - they are run by her husband and son respectively.

But Mrs Ng, who is in her late 50s, said she felt it was quite unreasonable that the CC gave them only one month to move out. She said a tender was called in February, but she was informed that her bid was unsuccessful only last month. She got a one-month extension after seeing Nee Soon GRC MP Lee Bee Wah.

"It is common for F&B businesses to let them know at least three to six months in advance," she said.

When approached, the People's Association (PA) - which runs the CC - said a new tender was called when the lease, which ended on May 15, approached expiry. It did not respond to questions about the timeframe given to Mrs Ng to move.

"The current tenant submitted a bid that was significantly lower than the eventual winner's. The grassroots committee decided to award it to the eventual winner after taking into consideration many factors," said the PA spokesman.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2016, with the headline 'Cafe's impending exit surprises patrons'. Print Edition | Subscribe