Coronavirus: Rush for bubble tea as non-key businesses asked to shut

Bubble tea fans lining up outside the LiHo shop @ My Village at 9.15 last night. ST PHOTO: WANG HUI FEN
Bubble tea fans lining up outside the LiHo shop @ My Village at 9.15 last night. ST PHOTO: WANG HUI FEN

Long queues were spotted at bubble tea shops across the island as Singaporeans tried to get their last fix of the sugary beverage before the stores temporarily shut their doors at 11.59pm yesterday.

Last night, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) announced that all standalone food and beverage outlets selling mostly drinks and snacks, as well as hairdressing and barber shops, will have to shut until May 4, for now.

The announcement was part of a further tightening on businesses deemed essential during Singapore's circuit breaker, which has now been extended until June 1.

Long queues were spotted at a LiHo bubble tea outlet at My Village in Serangoon Garden, Gongcha's bubble tea shop in Toa Payoh, and the Koi outlet in Jurong East following the announcement.

At a LiHo shop in Yishun Avenue 6, over 40 people, including delivery drivers, were spotted waiting for their drinks. There was also a line of about five cars along the road in front of the shop. A delivery rider, Mr Alif Haikal, 31, said he had been waiting for more than 25 minutes for two orders of bubble tea to deliver to customers. Usually this would take only five minutes.

He said: "Since 5pm, I've started to get at least two orders for bubble tea from various shops every hour - I didn't think much about it until I heard at around 8pm bubble tea shops would be closed tomorrow."

While delivery business was good yesterday, Mr Alif is worried the move to shut bubble tea stores would affect his income, as half his orders are from drink stalls.

Standalone food and drink outlets in hawker centres, foodcourts and coffee shops are not affected.

All other establishments that sell meals including hot or cooked snacks or breads may remain open for takeaway and delivery only.

Companies will be allowed to have a minimal number of workers return to their outlets today to pack and organise perishables but the storefronts must stay shut.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2020, with the headline 'Rush for bubble tea as non-key businesses asked to shut'. Subscribe