Chomp Chomp food centre to close for repair works

Chomp Chomp in Serangoon Gardens is one of four food centres being closed for repairs or renovations. Chomp Chomp and the Jurong West Street 52 site will close for between two and three months after January.
Chomp Chomp in Serangoon Gardens is one of four food centres being closed for repairs or renovations. Chomp Chomp and the Jurong West Street 52 site will close for between two and three months after January.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

The popular Chomp Chomp Food Centre in Serangoon Gardens is one of four food centres being closed for repairs or renovations.

The shutters will go down at Chomp Chomp and the Jurong West Street 52 centre for between two and three months after January next year, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).

The other two food centres affected are at Block 69, Geylang Bahru and Block 163, Bukit Merah Central.

The one in Geylang Bahru closed at the start of last month and the one in Bukit Merah will close next March, for renovations lasting a year and eight months respectively.

NEA added that the leases of stalls at the four food centres, which come under the Stall Ownership Scheme, expired in October. About 80 stalls have since stopped operations.

But most stalls - 81 per cent or 361 stalls - in these centres will continue to operate. This is the third batch of stalls that have been returned after the owners' 20-year leases expired.

While hawkers expressed worry at losing their income for up to a year, some like Ms Goh Siew Geoh, owner of Hup Kee Delicious Food in Bukit Merah Central, said that they will not move their stalls during the closure.

"It's troublesome to take on another stall, as it's a short period of time before we move back again," said the 62-year-old.

First-generation hawkers under the Stall Ownership Scheme who continue operating their stalls as tenants will pay a subsidised monthly rent of $192.

Ms Irene Koh, 58, who runs Mei Ji Fish Ball Noodle with her husband in Bukit Merah Central, said: "We are happy that they gave us subsidised rent and it's manageable, so we decided to continue working.

"It was quite heavy-going when we first purchased the 20-year lease, and had to service bank loans for the first 15 years."

The scheme saw 1,956 stalls in 15 hawker centres sold in four phases between 1994 and 1997.

Owners paid upfront prices for 20-year leases. The scheme was halted during the economic downturn in 1998.

Hawkers who owned stalls can continue their business after the planned works, as tenants paying a monthly rental.

First-generation hawkers, who had been relocated off the streets in the 1970s, pay the subsidised $192 rent, while others are charged from $1,445 to $2,461 based on rental market rates .

Ms Koh said she hopes relatively younger hawkers who already own a stall do not give up easily.

"It's hard to get subsidised rent like this elsewhere," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2016, with the headline 'Chomp Chomp food centre to close for repair works'. Print Edition | Subscribe