Coronavirus: Singapore

Buzz returns to hawker centres, coffee shops as curbs ease

Brisk business seen at several venues where patrons can dine in groups of up to five

Several hawkers and coffee-shop stall owners saw the buzz return to their venues yesterday morning, as patrons from different households were once again allowed to dine in groups of up to five.

As part of the initial batch of venues that will allow such groups, 11 hawker centres and seven coffee shops were identified as being able to control access, as well as conduct checks on the vaccination status of their customers.

Hawkers told The Straits Times they saw more life yesterday morning compared with the earlier weeks, when patrons could dine only alone or in pairs.

"You can feel the difference today, it's more busy," said Madam Ng Bee Leng, 57, whose family has been running Holland Village Homemade Soyabean at Holland Village Market and Food Centre since the 1970s.

"More parents have been bringing their kids here. I have not seen them for so long."

It was a similar case at Kampung Admiralty Hawker Centre.

Madam Ainun Hasan, 50, a full-time employee at Warong Lorong Fatimah stall, said: "The hawker centre feels a lot livelier today. Usually it's very quiet, especially since people order takeaways.

"Now that they allow five people to dine in, there are more families and even elderly people with their friends."

ST visited several hawker centres and coffee shops across the island in areas such as Hougang, Admiralty, Tiong Bahru and Holland Village yesterday morning and just before lunch.

Kampung Admiralty Hawker Centre was packed with the breakfast crowd, and hawkers in Beo Crescent Market in Tiong Bahru enjoyed brisk lunchtime business.

Others, like Holland Village Market and Food Centre and Ci Yuan Hawker Centre in Hougang, had some unoccupied tables in the morning.

The Patio coffee shop in Sembawang was near empty just before lunch.

But larger groups had showed up the day before.

The coffee shop's supervisor, who wanted to be known only as Mr Sathia, said: "(On Monday), we had four to five groups of five coming in because they thought that the five-person rule had already started and they were excited to eat together as a bigger group."

Another coffee shop, GoodYear Restaurant Enterprise in Tampines, said business improved by about 50 per cent yesterday.

But its owner, Ms Geraldine Peh, 25, said the constant rule changes have been "draining".

"We have to always adapt to new measures and keep up with the news and inform our staff about the rules, so that we don't flout them...

"I just hope to see business pick up (further) because we are holding a coffee-shop licence and we were quite affected by the two-person dining in rules, even though our shop layout is like a restaurant's," said Ms Peh.

Patrons welcomed the chance to dine with their friends again.

Three retirees were spotted chatting over coffee at Holland Village Market and Food Centre.

One of them, who wished to be known only as Mr Siu, 67, said that the trio would meet regularly at the food centre for their morning coffee before the pandemic.

Another member of the group, who declined to be named, told ST: "Because the restrictions have been relaxed a little, instead of going to each other's houses, we decided to come here because it's midway from everyone's houses.

"We also chose to come here early this morning to avoid the crowd for safety reasons."

The selected hawker centres have a maximum of two entry points, which now had reinforcements such as iPads to scan patrons' TraceTogether apps and tokens, and cordons to direct traffic flow.

Safe distancing officers in white National Environment Agency (NEA) polo shirts and red armbands, as well as safe distancing ambassadors in red shirts, were seen patrolling the hawker centres.

The NEA and Singapore Food Agency last Saturday said that the remaining hawker centres under NEA and NEA-appointed operators will have entry and vaccination checks by next Tuesday.

Coffee shops can come on board when they have put in place the necessary control measures to allow groups of five from different households to dine at their venues.

• Additional reporting by Ng Sor Luan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2021, with the headline 'Buzz returns to hawker centres, coffee shops as curbs ease'. Subscribe