LITTLE INDIA RIOT: ONE YEAR LATER

Little India Riot: One Year Later - Local shopkeepers: Business has taken a beating

Mr T. Richerd Leo, manager of Komala Vilas Vegetarian Restaurant in Race Course Road, says business has fallen by up to 30 per cent. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Mr T. Richerd Leo, manager of Komala Vilas Vegetarian Restaurant in Race Course Road, says business has fallen by up to 30 per cent. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
  • WHO: Operators of shops and restaurants in Little India.
  • THEIR INVOLVEMENT: A year ago, they enjoyed a bustling trade, selling provisions such as alcohol to foreign workers or running eateries where workers hung out.
  • THEIR STORY: The Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association says that 95 per cent of the businesses in Little India are dependent on foreign workers, and all have been affected.

Chairman Rajakumar Chandra says: "The liquor ban badly affected the liquor shops. Some closed down, and some are trying to see what other things they can sell. Other shops are also affected... because fewer people are coming to Little India. It's improving but will never go back to the old level (of sales)."

At Komala Vilas Vegetarian Restaurant in Race Course Road, business has fallen by up to 30 per cent. Manager T. Richerd Leo, 41, says: "The workers used to come for dinner and drinks on Sundays and stay till late, but now they have to go back to the dormitories earlier."

After Dec 8, operating hours of buses ferrying workers to and from dormitories were shortened; services now end at 9pm, instead of 11pm. On Sunday nights, where once there were crowds of up to 100,000 in the area, "now, by 9pm, the whole area is empty", says Mr Richerd.

Ms Riya, 22, who helps manage her family's provision shop in the same street, says: "There were three provision shops in this stretch, but the only one left is us. There is no increase in business, though."

 

The undergraduate says at least seven workers helped out in the shop on Sundays before the riot. Now, just two are needed. The alcohol ban hit their business badly. "We used to earn $20,000 on one Sunday alone but, now, at most $2,000. I hope they can extend the selling hours for retail shops till 10pm, since restaurants can continue selling them."

Licensed shops can sell alcohol only up to 8pm on weekends, public holidays and eve of public holidays. Alcohol also cannot be consumed in public places during certain periods.

Mr Siva Kumar, 38, owner of Mannai Wines in Buffalo Road, says: "Business has been very, very slow. After I pay my workers and the rental, there is no profit. Before the riot, I could make a profit of $6,000 to $10,000 each month."

Mr Raja Athan, 43, who owns a shop selling phonecards and mobile phone accessories in Chander Road, says business has slumped 40 per cent. He adds that some dorms have shops selling phonecards, which hits his business.

But some are less affected. Mr Ong Cheng Teck, 57, who owns a shop selling toiletries in Buffalo Road, says: "After the riot, people avoided the area and business was down by almost half, but it has slowly picked up from the middle of this year. Maybe because we don't just cater to the Indian workers...

"The security around this area is tighter, and I'm happy with the changes. It's definitely safer now. Last time, I could see drunk workers around here."