A popular coffee shop in Bishan central has been ordered to close for a day on Friday for failing to keep its premises free of rats.
Business at Kim San Leng Food Centre at Block 511, Bishan Street 13, will be suspended on Friday due to a rat infestation, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said.
The food centre, which began operations in 1991, was also fined $1,100 by NEA for two offences of failing to keep its premises free of rat infestation, and one offence of failing to deposit refuse in refuse bins lined with plastic bags.
It chalked up a total of 16 demerit points over the past 12 months under NEA's Points Demerit System, according to a suspension notice put up on its website on Monday.
Kim San Leng's manager Alfred Hoon, 34, said the rats come from burrows and drains outside the food centre. He said it has been working closely with the town council and NEA to improve the food centre's hygiene standards.
Mr Hoon, who said that this was the first time the food centre had been issued a suspension order, paid pest control company Aardwolf Pestkare to survey the place four times a month between last September and last month.
He said: "Even shopping centres have rats sometimes, let alone coffee shops. You can't fix the problem 100 per cent. We are doing our best."
On Friday, Aardwolf Pestkare will return to the food centre "to do some major pest control", surveying the area, setting up more rat traps and helping hawkers take precautions against rats, said Mr Hoon. Some light maintenance work will also be done, and contractors and stall vendors will clean the centre.
When The Straits Times visited the food centre at lunchtime yesterday, no rats were spotted, and the place was bustling with activity.
Most of the vendors of the food centre's 10 stalls, who did not want to be named, said the food centre has seen fewer rats in recent years.
Customers seemed unbothered by the news of the suspension.
A regular, who wanted to be known only as Mr Wong, said he has been patronising the popular Ming Ji Chicken Rice stall for about 10 years. "This is one of the better coffee shops in terms of cleanliness. The food is good. If there really was a serious issue (with hygiene), they wouldn't wait till Friday to close it," said the 45-year-old Ang Mo Kio resident.
Cashier Julie Ng, 63, was at the food centre during her lunch break. She said "every coffee shop has rats", adding that the rat problem is worse in other places. The Bishan resident said she has not seen any rats at Kim San Leng in the 20 years she has been going there.
Ms Sylvia Thong, 27, who works in marketing, visits the food centre about once a month.
While she has not seen any rats, she complained that "the tables, pillars are not very clean". Still, she returns to the food centre due to its convenient location, she said.
NEA said in its suspension notice: "NEA takes a serious view of these offences and would like to remind food operators to observe good food and personal hygiene practices at all times, and to engage only registered food handlers.
"NEA will not hesitate to take firm action against anyone found to be in violation of the Environmental Public Health Act."
There have been reports of rat infestations in other food centres in Singapore. Last November, a hawker centre at Block 505, Jurong West Street 52, was closed for three days in a bid to curb rats.