Jem tenants anxious for mall to reopen

The 241-unit mall in Jurong East has been closed for checks and repairs since Sept 19 after a burst water pipe caused part of the first-floor ceiling to collapse the previous night.
The 241-unit mall in Jurong East has been closed for checks and repairs since Sept 19 after a burst water pipe caused part of the first-floor ceiling to collapse the previous night.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Concerned about growing losses, some plan to seek compensation

Jem mall will remain shut this weekend, as losses mount for its tenants in the aftermath of last week's ceiling collapse.

This marks the second weekend in a row that it is closed for business.

"Jem will not open this weekend.We are getting closer and will be able to provide you with an opening date very soon," said an update on the mall's Facebook page last night.

The Jurong East mall, which opened in June, has been closed since Sept 19 after a burst water pipe caused part of the first-floor ceiling to collapse the previous night.

Tenants are getting anxious. When The Straits Times checked with 12 of them, all said they will ask developer Lend Lease for compensation.

Han's, which has a 2,500 sq ft restaurant in Jem's basement, is working on an e-mail to the Australian developer detailing losses of more than $60,000, including $5,000 in food wastage, rental for the closure period and losses in sales.

Its general manager Gan Ee-Tin said the rent is between $30,000 and $40,000 a month, and that 2,057 cakes, 2,200 raw pieces of meat and 20 bottles of sauces had been dumped.

"We cannot transfer meat from freezer to chiller and back to the freezer again," he said, adding that he could not move the perishable items to other outlets for food safety reasons.

At Saladworks, an American franchise which made its Singapore debut in Jem, three days' worth of food had to be thrown away. The lone outlet here is still paying its six full-time employees, but its 10 part-time workers have left. "Our brand is just taking off here, and then we have to close," said owner Amos Lee, 32. "We have no income, and we haven't heard anything about compensation."

Ms Fiona Lee, who owns Lee's Taiwanese eatery, said the management promised it would inform her 48 hours in advance when the mall is ready to reopen. She has diverted three workers to her other outlet here. The rest are on paid or advance leave.

Ms Sarah Lim, a senior retail lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic, said malls are unlikely to be legally bound to compensate tenants in such cases. They would have crafted tenancy contracts to protect themselves. "Malls do not readily offer such deals as it will be a huge blow to bottom lines," she said.

Any compensation may be in the form of advertising and promotions for the re-opening. Rental rebates, if offered, would only be 5 per cent to 15 per cent of the rent for the closure period, she estimated.

An update on the mall's Facebook page on Thursday said rectification works were progressing well and "testing is almost complete". Lend Lease's group chief executive officer Steve McCann told The Straits Times on Sept 20 that tenants were being communicated with daily, and have been "very supportive and accommodating".

"What we have made clear is that we are working through this, we are conducting a full review... we have told them that is what we are doing, and focused on their interests."

The authorities ordered Lend Lease to close off only the affected area, but the developer decided to close the entire 241-unit mall for repairs and checks.

limjess@sph.com.sg