SINGAPORE - The $17.5 million acquisition plan for Bukit Timah's Beauty World Food Centre has reportedly been shelved, and hawkers have been returning to their stalls, some two months after they 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.
On Tuesday (April 25), Lianhe Wanbao reported that the management behind the food centre had retracted their initial decision to stop operations in May.
Several hawkers had returned to the fourth-storey food centre, Wanbao said.
Madam Annie Cheong, 64, who has run the Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Noodle Rice stall for five years, told Wanbao that she has been allowed to continue running her stall.
Beauty World Food Centre was built in the 1980s and has more than 40 hawker stalls, many of which formerly operated at an old wet market in the area.
More than half the stalls were operating when Wanbao visited on Sunday (April 23).
Vegetarian food stallholder Mr Wei Jingqing, 56, was one of the first to return.
Mr Wei, who has sold food at the food centre for more than 15 years, said he first returned at the end of March.
"The food centre was still open. After that, they said it wasn't closing, so I returned and reopened my stall on April 1," he said.
Nasi lemak seller Ms Chen, who is in her 70s, said she closed her stall over Chinese New Year.
"I closed the stall over the new year as I heard that the food centre was being sold, and stayed at home looking after my grandkids," she said.
However, the management later approached her and informed her that the food centre was to continue its operations.
She was invited to return and resume selling nasi lemak, so she set up stall again on April 15.
Another hawker, Mr Chen Wencai,a 55-year-old who sells mutton soup, said that many of the regular hawkers would return in May.
A trustee for the food centre, who was not named, told Wanbao: "Many things are still unknown. But the food centre is likely to continue to operate until before Chinese New Year next year."
However, some stallholders said business has suffered as crowds thinned after news of the food centre closing spread.
Even so, customers eating there told Wanbao that they were happy the establishment was not closing yet.
Madam Wang Xiaoyun, 74, was one of them.
The regular customer said she used to eat there every night before she retired, for 20 years, and has a deep attachment to the place.
"The last time I came here was over Chinese New Year, when there was news of the sale, and only a few stalls were still operating," she said.
On Sunday, while visiting friends, she dropped by the food centre to take a look.
"I was surprised to see so many stalls operating," she said. Madam Wang added that she even waited half an hour for the familiar taste of her favourite "mee hoon kueh", as the stall was closed for a break when she visited.