JUST 15 months after Chinatown's Food Street was launched in a blaze of publicity, the hawkers' smiles have turned to frowns. Now the cash registers are ominously silent.
Its stallholders, handpicked to showcase the best of hawker fare, say business is down by as much as 70% since the launch.
Of the original 18 stalls, three have changed hands. One, Karen's Hotplate, has been shut for two months.
The Chinatown Business Association, which runs Food Street, added stalls selling dim sum and fruit juice last month, after customers asked for them.
Now, Tay Ah Seng, son of the famous Lavender Street pioneer who served char kway teow since 1940, said he might end his lease before it runs out in October.
While there was once a lack of tables to go round, there are now “so many tables and no people,” he said, adding that he could not afford to keep running the stall.
Before, he was so busy that he hired a chef. Now, he and his wife fry the dishes themselves.
They must sell at least 100 plates a night to cover the S$4,000 (RM8,700) monthly rent, and sometimes they couldn't, he said.
Only a few stalls open for lunch and there aren't many customers at night, he added.
Many others said the same.
Lim Keng Lian of Tiong Bahru Hua Yuen Porridge said media reports attracted diners when Food Street was new.
But Singaporeans, he lamented, would go find somewhere new after a few tries.
Vendors and customers blame parking problems, the lack of other attractions nearby, and invariably, the economy. They even blame the weather.
What about the food? Yang Gui Nian, 65, declared it “no different from other hawker centres.” – The Straits Times/Asia News Network