Hawkers, coffee shop patrons welcome dine-in for groups of two without Covid-19 vaccination checks

Two people regardless of vaccination status can eat together at hawker centres and coffee shops from Aug 10, 2021. ST PHOTO: MALAVIKA MENON

SINGAPORE - Coffee shop operators are looking forward to the resumption of dining in next Tuesday (Aug 10), even though it will be limited to groups of two people per table.

Hawkers told The Straits Times that allowing groups of two to dine in without having to check their vaccination status was a good move, as it would be difficult to do this checking without additional manpower or incurring cost.

On Friday, the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force announced that people will be allowed to dine at eateries in groups of up to five from next Tuesday if they are fully vaccinated.

It also added that everyone will be able to dine at hawker centres and coffee shops regardless of vaccination status - but only in groups of two people.

Unvaccinated individuals are allowed to eat at hawker centres and coffee shops because these places are open and naturally ventilated, said the Ministry of Health.

Mr Hong Poh Hin, chairman of the Foochow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants Association which represents about 400 coffee shops, said business had dropped about 40 to 50 per cent across its members, with drink stalls being hit the hardest and losing up to 90 per cent of their business in the past two weeks.

He said the announcement to allow dining in again was a bonus, as many operators had expected it to resume only after Aug 18.

However, Mr Hong said they are keeping their fingers crossed that nothing major happens in the next month, in hopes that they may be able to open up further at a later date to groups of five people regardless of vaccination status.

He added that he does not expect people to come flooding back immediately, but that patrons will return to the coffee shops gradually.

Ms Balbir Kaur, 50, who runs the Pak Kashmiri Delights stall in Tekka Centre with her family, said that her business has tanked and she was looking forward to the easing of restrictions.

"Our business cannot pick up unless we see the usual crowd of migrant workers or foreign domestic workers frequenting Tekka Centre on their rest days. People prefer to have hot and fresh food while dining in instead of takeaways," she said.

Mr Teo Eng Huap, who runs the Chin Seng Cooked Food stall at Tekka Centre, said that the Government's rental waivers have helped his business stay afloat over the last few months.

"In pre-Covid-19 times, our customers preferred to come in large groups with their colleagues or family members to dine in. Since the rules are only being relaxed for two diners eating together, we do not think it will improve our business dramatically," he said.

Mr Teo, who runs the stall with his wife, said older hawkers face barriers to reaching customers online because they are not familiar with delivery apps.

Diners and stallholders at coffee shops said they looked forward to the easing of restrictions.

Mr Palani Kumar, chef at Al-Jilani Restaurant on Bencoolen Street, said staff had begun buying additional supplies in expectation of more customers in the week ahead.

"As a 24-hour coffee shop, we rely on some regular patrons who may work irregular shifts, so we hope they will return when restrictions ease," he said.

Diner Adrian Lo, 38, who is self-employed said he planned to have a meal with his partner once the restrictions were eased.

"We have been visiting coffee shops once in awhile for takeaways, but we would be more comfortable eating in small groups once dining in resumes," he said.

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