Reprieve for Beauty World hawkers?

Some Beauty World hawkers said the food centre's management had told them that the centre was to continue operating and they were invited to return to resume business.
Some Beauty World hawkers said the food centre's management had told them that the centre was to continue operating and they were invited to return to resume business.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Beauty World Food Centre in Bukit Timah is still in business, with hawkers returning about two months after some of them had begun to vacate.

Stallholders told The Straits Times in February that they were unsure of their fates as they had heard about a potential sale of the privately owned food centre.

In April last year, real estate agency PropNex told ST that an unidentified buyer had offered $17.5 million for the centre, but added that the final amount was being negotiated.

But on Tuesday, Chinese newspaper Lianhe Wanbao reported that several hawkers, who had moved out ahead of the deadline, had returned to the food centre, which occupies the fourth floor of the strata-titled Beauty World Centre mall. An unnamed trustee was quoted by Wanbao as saying that while much remains up in the air, the open-air food centre is likely to operate until Chinese New Year next year.

Some hawkers said the food centre's management had told them that the centre was to continue operating and they were invited to return to resume business. About half of the 40 or so stalls were open for business when ST visited at about 5pm on Wednesday.

 

The food centre's managing agent, Wisely 98, did not respond to ST's queries, but hawkers said there were issues with the potential sale of the food centre.

PropNex said it was "unable to disclose any information or comment about this transaction".

Hawker Tan Lip Hong said he had been in favour of the sale as he stood to make $400,000 to $500,000. "It's a good price, especially as I'm not young," said Mr Tan, 58, who has been selling char kway teow at the centre since 1984. "But I may retire soon, whether or not the sale goes through."

While the centre's food licence is valid until November, Mr Tan said that based on his experience, it could be renewed for another year.

Food vendors who lease their stalls, rather than own them, were optimistic that the food centre was not in danger of imminent closure.

Ms Yung Kead Hun, 42, who sells beef balls, said business has been bad since news of the closure broke, "but I hope customers will return now that we've heard otherwise".

Some customers such as property agent Sunny Ang, 33, will miss the food centre should it close.

"This place has been around for quite some time and it is always sad to see a food place go."

• Additional reporting by Lydia Lam

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 28, 2017, with the headline 'Reprieve for Beauty World hawkers?'. Print Edition | Subscribe