The popular Tiong Bahru Market and Food Centre will be reopening on Saturday (May 20) after a three-month renovation, but not all hawkers will be ready to serve just yet.
Several hawkers told The Straits Times they were only able to return to the market on Wednesday to prepare their stalls, leaving them a three-day window to clean, install the necessary equipment and prepare their ingredients for the reopening.
"There's not enough time to prepare. It's a bit rushed," said Madam Nita Ali, 43, who runs an ayam penyet stall, Ali Corner.
She pointed out that the dust of renovations was still all over the floors and could find its way into food.
The holders of 259 market stalls and 83 hawker stalls will return to newly-tiled floors, a fresh coat of paint and new fixtures.
The hawker centre, on the second floor, has also been installed with seven high-volume low-speed fans, six LCD screens, energy-efficient lights such as LEDs and retractable sun shades. Tables designated for the elderly and people with disabilities will have movable seats to make way for wheelchairs.
Solar panels will also be installed on the rooftop at the end of the year, under the SolarNova Programme led by the Singapore Economic Development Board in partnership with the Housing Development Board, said the National Environment Agency. This will help offset current electricity usage within the centre, said NEA.
At the market on Thursday, construction barricades were still up. Inside, a flurry of hawkers were busy setting up, while construction workers were finishing renovation works, including laying cement on the floor and painting.
Another hawker doubtful of reopening on Saturday, Mr Tay Soo Ran, who owns Tiong Bahru Fried Kway Teow, said: "The hawker centre is in a mess, and there is only one more day left, how is it possible to open on Saturday?"
The 90-year-old hawker, who has been selling char kway teow for 60 years, was still waiting his gas supply to arrive and the fridge to be installed. He said he might reopen on Monday.
This was also the case for Teck Seng Soya Bean Drinks owner, Mr Loh Teck Seng, who said he may delay opening for one or two days.
"The stallowners at the wet market have fewer preparations. They just need to wash up and they are done. But the food stalls have a lot more preparations to make," said Mr Loh, 62, who is chairman of the Tiong Bahru Hawker Association.
Despite the tight schedule, however, stall owners said they were looking forward to reopening after three months of inactivity and assured customers prices would remain as before.
Mr Loh said: "Being closed for three months, we will definitely lose some customers. But the renovations will also attract new customers who are curious about the new market."