Hawkers stranded with 50kg of rice, 100kg of frozen prawns after Seletar food court abruptly closes

A chicken rice stall owner still owes his supplier thousands of dollars for unused ingredients that he had to give away.

Karen Lui | April 10, 2021, 04:00 PM

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Due to the abrupt closure of a food court, six stall vendors struggled to cope with over 100kg of ingredients, estimated to be worth thousands of dollars in losses.

One of them was a prawn noodle stall that just opened for two days and the stall owner had to lug 100kg worth of frozen prawns home and store them in four refrigerators.

The chicken rice stall owner had to give away 50kg of rice and eight chickens.

Stall vendor removing an electric signage due to the closure. Image by Lianhe Wanbao.

Last minute notification for stall vendors

At 11am on Apr. 7, 2021, the Food Scholar food court at Greenwich V, a mall along Seletar Road, abruptly alerted all of its vendors that it will close down within the same day.

It also instructed all vendors to move out the next day, Apr. 8.

According to Lianhe Wanbao, the food court had been having numerous negotiations with the stall vendors due to rental disputes, which remained unsettled in the end.

Chicken rice stall vendor Huang Hai Jun, 56, told the Chinese daily that the ingredients that he had bought for the next day — about 50kg of rice and eight chickens — had to be given away.

When Wanbao asked what he had done with the stock, he replied:

"I distributed the stock to others, including the chicken, I continued to sell the remaining until last night. We have not paid the suppliers for the stock amounting to S$2,000 to S$3,000. Now, I have to wait for them to return the S$3,000 deposit to me to pay for the stock."

Fu Yong Yang, 31, who was in charge of the Yong Tau Foo stall, said, they have 14 other branches islandwide and since this stall has to be shut, they will try to move the ingredients to other branches.

Fu said that the refrigerator and shelves were the most difficult to move. In total, the amount of ingredients he had on hand amounted to thousands of dollars.

In the Wanbao video, Fu's mother lamented in exasperation:

"We ordered a lot of stock, they should have given us at least three days to prepare. There was nothing! Last minute, within an hour, it was done."

Chen's wife who helps run the Prawn Noodle stall moving the flowers sent to celebrate their opening. Image by Lianhe Wanbao.

A prawn noodle stall that just opened the previous day had ordered 100kg of frozen prawns. The owner, Chen, 36, had to bring home all the prawns, stuffing four refrigerators to the brim.

Speaking to Zaobao, Chen said he had discussed with the food court operator to rent a stall at Food Scholar two weeks ago, lamenting that his efforts were all wasted after so much preparation work.

In the Wanbao video, Chen's wife said that they had to move the items home before they start searching for a new place, adding that it was a waste of their money.

She added, "If it happened to you, you wouldn't be happy either."

Zi char stall owner, identified as Ah Xiang, 30, criticised the food court owner for being irresponsible: "It is really unreasonable to force us to stop operating at such short notice."

The packed stock that the stall owners outside of the premises that was later loaded into a vehicle. Photo courtesy of Lianhe Wanbao.

Furthermore, the bowl-collectors who were employed by the food court have lost their jobs.

Amongst them was a 67-year-old woman identified by her surname, Xie, who dropped by the headquarters to collect her pay and return her uniform upon notification.

"It's about time I retire!" she said.

Unsuccessful negotiations with mall

The food court operator, Wu, 26, admitted to owing several months' worth of rent. He told the paper that he received notice a week before, informing him that he had to cease operations if he could not pay rent.

Wu shared that the food court is a family business and has been operating at Greenwich V for five years.

He explained that, due to the pandemic last year, business had suffered tremendously. He believes the mall should give the food court more rental subsidies and refused to pay several months' worth of rent.

According to Wanbao, both parties started negotiations in November 2020 but failed to reached an agreement in the end.

Staff helping to move items due to the closure. Image via Lianhe Wanbao.

Wu said, "We had received notification from the mall around a week ago, saying they would give a week's grace. Hence, I continued to negotiate with them, believing the talks would result in a fruitful outcome. Who knew we would receive a notification to cease operations two days ago."

Wu said his relationship with the stall vendors have been harmonious and would speak to them privately about compensation matters.

He also said to try his best to help the bowl-collectors to find new jobs and thanked all customers for their support over the years.

Top images by Wanbao.