The reason so many shoplots at the Section 14 food court are shuttered is not just tenants misusing units for storage purposes.
Other factors such as labour shortage, non-compliance with operating hours and ill health factored in it, said councillor for Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) Sugumaran Annamalai, who is in charge of Zone 14.
Referring to an earlier StarMetro report titled “Once-popular Section 14 food court in gloomy state”, Sugumaran said some operators were not sticking to scheduled operating hours of 8am to 6pm.
“Instead, they follow their own business hours, opening for breakfast, lunch or dinner.”
One reason given by operators for shortened operating hours is lack of workers.
“MBPJ is strict about foreigners not being allowed to work at council-run premises, even if they are tenants’ spouses.
“According to tenancy terms at MBPJ stalls, only locals can work and their names must be submitted together with licensing applications.
“Once approved, their names and passport-sized photos must be displayed at the premises. Operators say they have to iron out workforce issues if they want to resume longer operating hours,” he said.
Sugumaran said some tenants were also economically impacted by movement restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Unable to recover from their losses, some have defaulted in rent and were asked to vacate their units.”
Another reason shops were shuttered had to do with elderly tenants facing health problems.
“Some of them have been occupying lots for the past 20 years and are now old.
“When they are feeling unwell, they won’t open for business,” said Sugumaran.
He assured that the situation would improve as MBPJ’s health and licensing departments had identified non-performing units, specifically tenants who defaulted on rent.
“Those who close more days than they open must hand their units back to MBPJ to give others a chance to do business.
“Some have already done so. In the past two months, newcomers have been interviewed to occupy vacant units.”
Units that are not ready to be let out will be scheduled for maintenance or repair work, he added.
New applicants, he said, would be questioned on their menu, cooking methods and trading experience in addition to their ability to fulfil licensing requirements such as obtaining of typhoid vaccinations and food handling course certificates.
Preference, he said, would be given to Petaling Jaya residents and those in the B40 category.
“Former tenants are not allowed to ‘hand over’ their tenancies to friends or relatives.
“There is no stopping their friends or relatives from applying but they have to go through the interview process.”
In an effort to achieve better tenancy mix, tenants will also be advised to tweak their menus.
“However, it is beyond the city council’s jurisdiction to take action against traders who have applied to sell drinks but are also providing side offerings like kuih or nasi lemak.
“Neither can it prevent two traders from selling the same type of food,” said Sugumaran.