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    Apr 08, 2014

    Lull Pa Sat, now another eatery delayed

    IN THE midst of one delay, another is plaguing foodcourt operator Kopitiam.

    The firm's biggest project, the refurbishment of Lau Pa Sat, was to have been completed in November last year. But the historic building is still boarded up, and its opening date has been pushed back to later this month - a five-month delay.

    In the west, the firm's new outlet at the National University Hospital Medical Centre (NUHMC) is having a rough start. It was to have been opened in September last year, but is now slated to be opened this month too, "subject to approval by the authorities", said Kopitiam.

    The delays have left stallholders in the lurch and tempers are flaring. My Paper understands that at least three stallholders at NUHMC have pulled out.

    One tenant at NUHMC, who is still holding on to the hope of starting work soon, said that she quit her job managing the finances of a food shop in September in anticipation of her stall's opening.

    The first-time stallholder said that she has since been in limbo.

    "Every time when it is two weeks before the opening, they would say it is delayed. They expect us tenants to stand by," said the 38-year-old, who did not want to be named.

    Although tenants like her have not been forking out rent because of the delay, the uncertainty has prevented her from taking up a temporary job, and she has had to depend on her savings. She used to earn $4,000 a month.

    Over at Lau Pa Sat, tenants there are also waiting in anger.

    One stallholder, who did not want to be named, has been working odd jobs to survive while waiting. The 48-year-old has been holding a stall there for 11 years.

    When My Paper visited Lau Pa Sat yesterday, the boarding was still up and construction work was ongoing.

    A visit to the NUHMC outlet, on the other hand, found that it appeared to be almost ready, with the names of food stalls put up.

    Staff at NUHMC said they were told that the outlet would be opened in February this year, and have heard no other news since.

    Nurse Zipporah Ann, who works in the building, said that there are other food options at the centre, including Burger King and Delifrance, but staff want food at lower, foodcourt prices.

    While there is another Kopitiam outlet nearby, it gets crowded, said Ms Zipporah, adding: "At lunchtime, it is difficult to get a seat, and the queues are also very long."

    A spokesman for Kopitiam said that it is not unusual for a project of Lau Pa Sat's scale to take a longer time to complete than a normal foodcourt.

    "Renovations for Chinatown Food Street, located in Smith Street, took 10 months. It is a much smaller project than Lau Pa Sat in terms of size and number of tenants involved," she said.

    As for the NUHMC outlet, she said that there were originally supposed to be 10 stalls, but this was upped to 17.

    "This substantial change in foodcourt layout requires us to have a longer-than-expected time to comply with all the technical submission requirements," she said.

    Singapore Polytechnic senior retail lecturer Sarah Lim said that such delays are not uncommon. Lau Pa Sat, she said, is five times bigger than a regular foodcourt.

    In the case of the NUHMC outlet, she said that Koptiam could be trying to find new stallholders.

    "Opening when the stalls are not fully tenanted gives the image that it is not a good foodcourt," she said.

    But she added that Kopitiam should be entirely transparent with its tenants, and be fair to those who are waiting.