Marina Square eateries still reeling from rat incident

Five have closed while others report poor business; pests still found in mall, NEA says

Addictions Cafe & Remedy Bar and Carnivore Appetite are among the eateries in Marina Square that have put up the shutters since a dead rat was found in a dish at Hotpot Culture.
Addictions Cafe & Remedy Bar and Carnivore Appetite are among the eateries in Marina Square that have put up the shutters since a dead rat was found in a dish at Hotpot Culture. ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

Rats are still roaming Marina Square mall, and they have claimed their first victims.

At least five eateries - The Corner Place Korean BBQ, Cafe Lady M, Addictions Cafe & Remedy Bar, Brazilian restaurant Carnivore Appetite and Italian Japanese restaurant Nuvo - have put up the shutters since January, when a dead rat was found in a salted vegetable dish at Hotpot Culture, which is on the fourth floor.

An employee at the chain, who did not want to be named, said that Carnivore Appetite shut down in February. "Mainly, it was because of the rat infestation. Customer traffic really fell after that."

A former Addictions Cafe & Remedy Bar employee, Ms Rachel Doan, 35, said the cafe shut in February, ahead of its lease expiry in November, also due to the rodent problem.

Nuvo shut on Jan 29 with a notice on its Facebook page declaring that it would cease operations "until the situation at Marina Square has been resolved". It has not reopened.

Lady M shut in January, with The Corner Place Korean BBQ following soon after. Prior to the latter's closure, a manager was quoted in The Straits Times as saying that customers confused it with Hotpot Culture.

The rodent problem remains, although it has eased.

A spokesman for the National Environment Agency (NEA) said: "Our assessment is that there has been a marked improvement in the rat situation at the mall, as there has been a significant reduction in the number of rats caught.

"However, as dead rats were still being found at the mall as recently as last month, it may still be some time before the ongoing rat control measures take effect fully ."

Meanwhile, remaining eateries report poor business.

Chinese restaurant Yechun Xiao Jiang Nan is likely to close when its lease expires at the year end. It is losing $20,000 each month, said managing director Li Jing.

This is despite landlord Marina Centre Holdings' rental reprieve of up to 30 per cent for July, August and September. Mr Li said the 20 per cent discount he received, off the more than $45,000-a-month rent he is paying, is not enough. He pointed out that other factors, such as road closures soon for National Day and the Formula One race next month, will hit business once again.

At Vietnamese restaurant Lotus Saigon, business has halved since January. Supervisor Jenny Kim, 40, said: "It never returned to normal".

Meanwhile, Japanese restaurant Hamanoya shut for a month after the rat incident and reopened in March with a new menu.

A Straits Times visit last week found restaurants empty at dinner time. The spaces where Nuvo, Addictions Cafe & Remedy Bar, and Lady M used to be remain vacant. On Carnivore Appetite's entrance was a notice from the landlord informing the eatery that it had failed to comply with requirements to open daily from 10am to 10pm. "We are entitled to remove any goods... and apply the proceeds of the sales of such goods against the costs and payment incurred and any arrears of rent," read the letter.

When contacted, Marina Centre Holdings did not comment specifically on how it was addressing the pest problem or how many tenants received rental discounts.

It would only say: "Pest control is an ongoing programme and we continue our vigilant pest control programme with our tenants."

However, The Straits Times understands NEA has taken enforcement action against the landlord.

Oddly, business at Hotpot Culture is "almost back to normal", said its owner Wilson Lim. The NEA said over 20 inspections of the eatery after its suspension was lifted in February found "no hygiene lapses or pest infestation".

Customers, meanwhile, are still giving the mall a miss.

Ms Yeo Yeo Min, 31, said she will return for a meal only when the mall has been declared rat-free.

"It's just gross. I won't eat there if I can help it," said the engineer. "How would you know if the food you are eating is really hygienic?"

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2015, with the headline Marina Square eateries still reeling from rat incident. Subscribe