Facelift for famous hawker centre

GEORGE TOWN: It’s often billed as Penang’s most famous food haunt but the Gurney Drive hawker centre here is now a pale shadow of its once busy days.

Fewer patrons are now enjoying the food there in view of the conditional movement control order.

Thus, the Penang government is looking into ways to revive the ailing hawker centre.

Pulau Tikus assemblyman Chris Lee said he will be liaising with the hawkers on programmes they could work with together.

“Promotions and delivery services are some of the programmes planned.

“Everything will be announced once it’s fine-tuned as it is premature to reveal the details now, ” said Lee when commenting on a report in The Star on Friday about the almost deserted hawker centre.

“The place was a tourist attraction for decades and the closing of international borders due to the pandemic and restricted travelling within the country have led to a decline in business.

“The conditional MCO has halted travellers from Kuala Lumpur and Selangor who used to patronise these stalls at Gurney Drive, ” Lee said.

“I myself have eaten there before they moved to the current spot.

“I used to walk over when I was staying in Jalan Birch.’’

However, food blogger Epril Tan expressed doubt about the plans to revive the hawker centre.

‘’Most of the hawkers operating there are already in their late 50s and 60s.

‘’The MCO, recovery MCO and conditional MCO dealt a heavy blow to these hawkers with many likely to close shop permanently.

“Furthermore, those who patronise the stalls there are mainly from outstation.

“And these days, there are hardly people coming over to the island, ’’ he said.

Tan noted that locals are not frequenting the place much as they find the food pricey.

They can get cheaper hawker fare at other places, he added.

Another blogger, Ken Tho Nai, said people are discouraged from eating out due to regulations on two or four diners to a table.

Most of them prefer to get takeaway or rely on delivery service.

“Tanjung Bungah-Gurney areas have confirmed Covid-19 cases and that discourages locals from visiting the hawker centre too.

“The inter-district travelling restrictions have further dampened food enthusiasts. And even before the pandemic broke out, many

only go to these stalls when they have friends visiting Penang, ” Ken said.

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