Waterloo Street fortune tellers mull over their future ahead of new licensing rule

Street vendors near two popular Waterloo Street temples will need a licence from next year to operate from designated lots. ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN

SINGAPORE - For decades, they have offered customers a tantalising glimpse of what life may have in store.

Now the fortune tellers of Waterloo Street face a different future due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Two of the 19 who operate in the area have decided not to apply for new $48.15-a-month licences, which will be required next year as part of moves to manage safe distancing.

The decision was also down to the fact that they are in their 70s and 80s.

They are among 41 street vendors who face new licensing conditions imposed by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA), which wants them to start working from designated lots.

At present, they are allowed to choose where to operate on the pedestrianised mall in front of the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple and Sri Krishnan Temple.

A balloting exercise to allocate the lots on Monday afternoon was attended by the remaining 39 vendors.

The street enhancement exercise requires vendors to obtain a Temporary Occupation Licence. They will progressively move into the 2m by 1.5m lots from Jan 4 and the fee will be payable from Jun 1. The authority added that vendors who face financial difficulties can approach it for assistance.

There are 19 fortune tellers, 19 flower vendors, two reflexologists and one cobbler currently plying their trades from makeshift stalls.

There are 19 fortune tellers, 19 flower vendors, two reflexologists and one cobbler currently plying their trades from makeshift stalls. ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN

The SLA said the changes would allow safe distancing between the vendors, clear fire engine access and provide more room for pedestrians.

At the moment, the mall is often busy and filled with makeshift stalls and discarded boxes that obstruct the pathways.

"These are not conducive to both the street vendors and visitors to the area, and are potential fire hazards," said the authority in a joint statement with the Singapore Food Agency and Urban Redevelopment Authority on Dec 8.

Enhancement works to draw up the lots will be carried out in phases.

"To comply with the requisite buffer for fire safety and safe distancing between the stalls, coupled with the limited space along Waterloo mall, we are unable to expand the size of the lot or place all vendors along Waterloo Mall," added the SLA.

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