Hawkers hesitant about dine-ins

GEORGE TOWN: Hawkers and small food businesses in Penang are in no hurry to open for dine-in services as they feel there are no clear directions for those fully-vaccinated individuals to enter their eateries.

While the latest standard operating procedure (SOP) provides that those who are fully vaccinated can dine in, eateries and hawkers say there are too many unanswered questions.

A coffee shop owner in Medan Kampung Relau, Janice Tan, 48, said it is difficult for small eateries and hawker centres to allow dine-ins if they need to check every single customer’s vaccination status.

“We are just hawkers. We run small businesses. To operate, we already need to pay rental and other costs.

“To hire more people just to sit at the entrance to properly check whether incoming customers are considered ‘vaccinated’ is additional cost for us.

“Many of us cannot afford that right now, so we might as well stick to doing take-aways as that is how the remaining hawkers here have been sustaining business over the past months,” she said yesterday.

Tan said besides concerns over costs, hawkers are also not familiar with determining how a person is considered fully vaccinated.

“We would not know how to look at their vaccination cards or determine the exact number of days after vaccination for the individual to be considered ‘vaccinated’.

“There are differences in the period where they take one or both doses, and even differences in the type of vaccines they take.

“This would be time consuming if we were to check every individual like this,” she said.

At another hawker centre in Gelugor, a chicken rice seller who wanted to be known as Jan, 47, said the hawker centre has no plans to provide dine-ins for now.

“Until now, we see no benefit in providing such services. Checking each individual’s vaccination record would require additional manpower, and takes up time.

“If we count the days after the vaccination to allow them to dine in, this will get us into unnecessary conflict with customers.

“Not to mention, if there are some people who fake vaccination records and if we happen to let them pass, this will get us into trouble,” said Jan.

A check by The Star at 11 hawker centres and restaurants in Gelugor, Sungai Nibong and Bayan Lepas, found only one restaurant allowing dine-in.

Restaurant owner Alfred Phua, 53, said despite providing such services, he has not served a single dine-in customer since they were allowed to do so from Aug 10.

“We open but we do not expect people to come for dine-in soon, anyway. It is understandable, the situation is not good.”

“Until now, the cases have not dropped and people would feel safer buying takeaways,” he said.

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