Lunch crowds flock to Amoy Street Food Centre as it reopens after renovation
When operation assistant Sally Tng craves stewed soup with steamed rice, she would frequent her favourite stall at Amoy Street Food Centre in Chinatown.
But since the food centre closed for repairs and redecoration (R&R) on Oct 11 last year, she and her colleagues could visit only the Maxwell Food Centre.
On Wednesday morning (Jan 12), the 58-year-old finally got to satisfy her craving after a three-month break as the Amoy Street Food Centre reopened on Tuesday.
Ms Tng, who has been patronising the food centre for three years, told The Straits Times: "I am happy to be back because there is a lot of good food here."
A National Environment Agency (NEA) spokesman told ST the R&R of the food centre included painting, mechanical and electrical works such as replacement of light fittings, fans, sanitary pipes and kitchen exhaust motors, installation of bird netting, as well as toilet improvement works.
She said: "Periodic refreshing of hawker centres through R&R helps to maintain them in a good physical condition, and ensure a pleasant dining environment for patrons."
R&R is carried out every six to eight years and usually takes two to three months, depending on the scope of work. Amoy Street Food Centre's previous R&R was completed in February 2015, the spokesman said.
The cost of the R&R is borne by NEA. Rental remission was given to the stallholders as they were unable to continue operating their stalls during the closure of the centre. The stall rentals will not be increased after the R&R, and the current stall occupancy rate is 90 per cent, she added.
When ST visited the food centre at about 10.30am on Wednesday, about 85 of the 135 stalls were open, and a small crowd was tucking into the food.
About an hour later, a steady stream of office workers started arriving for lunch, and queues formed at the more popular stalls, such as a beef kway teow stall and one selling fishball and minced meat noodle.
Stall owners that ST spoke to said they are happy to be back and had noticed changes to the environment of the food centre.
Ms Jennifer Teo, 57, who has been selling fried dough fritters such as you tiao and sesame bean-paste ball at the food centre for 18 years, said: "It is better than last time. It is now brighter and cleaner with more fans."
She noted that most of the regulars were not back yet because they are still working from home.
Mr Tan Hong Doo, 72, and his wife, Madam Wu Qiao Zhen, 72, who have operated a Teochew beef kway teow stall at the food centre since March 1983, noticed that it has become cleaner.
Mr Tan said about 70 per cent of their customers returned to patronise their stall on Tuesday. Ms Wu said they used the closure as an opportunity to take a welcome break at home.
Ms Nur Syakirah Abd Wahid, 38, who has run an Indonesian cuisine stall there since 2018, is glad to be back, saying: "There are more fans and it's so much cooler now."
Ms Syakirah noted the drain chokes up sometimes but thinks that it is a small issue.
Some of her regulars showed up on Tuesday. "It was really busy yesterday, but most probably because most of the stalls were not open or they were just eager to come back because there is a lot of good food here."
Bank trader Charlie Chiang, 53, also noticed the food centre is now brighter and has more fans.
"I am happy the food centre has reopened because there is more variety (to choose from)," he added.