SINGAPORE - Local bookstore Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop is closing for at least the next three months, possibly for good.
The cafe, which is the first bookstore here to sell only Singapore books, will suspend its operations at the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) centre at 45 Maxwell Road from Sunday (Aug 1).
The two-year-old concept by publisher Epigram Books and coffee chain Huggs was hit last year by the Covid-19 retail slump. Its recovery was further hampered by the recent renewal of phase two (heightened alert) restrictions.
Epigram founder Edmund Wee, 69, said the store has struggled with rental costs since the circuit breaker, during which sales plunged by 80 per cent.
Their landlord, the URA, has offered them a three-month suspension without rent, but Mr Wee is uncertain if they will be able to reopen afterwards. "I'm looking for a pop-up space somewhere, but it's quite hard to find," he said.
"I'm so upset, I don't know what to do," he added. "I feel like crying."
Huggs-Epigram opened in March 2019 with the aim of selling only books about Singapore, brought out by local publishers or written by Singaporeans.
The tie-up with Epigram was Huggs' 17th outlet and cost at least $120,000 to set up, 90 per cent of which was borne by Huggs.
The shop has an area of almost 990 sq ft and could seat between 40 and 50 people before Covid-19 restrictions.
It is another blow to Epigram, which in January this year was forced to close its publishing arm in the United Kingdom to shore up its Singapore business.
Huggs-Epigram will have a storewide discount of 10 per cent on Friday and Saturday, with business hours on Saturday extended from 10am to midnight.
"Making Singapore literature accessible to a global audience has always been a great honour and privilege, and we hope readers can continue to support local literature by shopping with us online, while we work to reopen the shop as soon as possible," said the store in a statement.
It will continue to sell titles online at Epigram's website.