Beach Road kopitiam U-turns on S$10 charge for outside food & drinks

Backed by the hawkers but the kopitiam owner vetoed it.

Winnie Li | January 16, 2023, 03:45 PM

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Luk Lu Eating House, a kopitiam at Beach Road, had reportedly put up signs warning patrons not to consume outside food and drinks at the premise, or a surcharge of S$10 will apply.

According to Shin Min Daily News (Shin Min), the signs, written in both English and Mandarin, were pasted over all the kopitiam, including on its walls and pillars.

However, when Mothership visited the kopitiam on Jan.10, all signs mentioning the surcharge were gone.

Left image via Shin Min Daily News; Right image by Winnie Li

Image by Winnie Li

Image by Winnie Li

Image by Winnie Li

The only sign left was one written in English, which read: "no outside food or drinks allowed".

Photo by Winnie Li

Manager put up signs because many consume outside food and drinks

Speaking to Mothership, the kopitiam manager, Richard, shared that the sign was put up approximately two months ago. Its intention was to deter visitors from consuming outside food and drinks at the shop.

He explained to Shin Min that many had done so in the past five or six years, with the most common one being drinking coffee bought elsewhere.

"As we sell kopi and bread ourselves, [people who consume outside food or drinks] will affect our business. Some would even leave after their meals without cleaning up," Richard explained.

Richard also shared that occasionally, a group of friends would stop by, but only one of them would buy food from the hawkers. All others would bring food from elsewhere.

These encounters led him to put up the signs so that the kopitiam "doesn't need to clean up the mess some customers left behind who did not even make a purchase at the shop".

Signs were effective, no one was charged yet

Richard considers the signs effective as "many felt deterred", and the situation improved significantly after they were put up.

He told Shin Min that when people brought outside food and drinks to the kopitiam, the hawkers could remind them by simply pointing to the sign.

However, he clarified that no one had been charged the S$10 since the signs were put up.

Supported by hawkers

Two hawkers that spoke to Mothership on the condition of anonymity shared that they support having the signs at the kopitiam.

According to one hawker, as the kopitiam locates near Haji Lane, where many cafés situate, many visitors who can't find seats at the cafés choose to consume their coffee at the kopitiam instead.

"This [behaviour] would affect my business, wouldn't it?" asked the hawker.

Similarly, another anonymous hawker interviewed by Shin Min also saw benefits in putting up the sign as it helps them avoid confronting diners face-to-face, which may trigger unnecessary quarrels.

"When people saw the sign, they would understand [and stop consuming outside food and drinks] right away," shared the other hawker who spoke to Mothership.

Diners also understand

Patrons of the kopitiam interviewed by Shin Min also took no issues with the surcharges.

A taxi driver shared that he doesn't understand why people choose to consume outside food and drinks at the kopitiam since they are available here.

Signs removed by kopitiam owner

Despite these supportive voices, the kopitiam owner, whose surname is Tan, decided to remove the sign after her friends sent her Shin Min's report.

She told Mothership that she was taken aback by the news as she was "not informed by the manager that he would be putting up the signs beforehand".

She then removed the signs from the kopitiam because she was worried that they would scare customers away.

While Tan is aware of visitors bringing outside food and drinks to the kopitiam, she nevertheless believes that the sign is not the best way to communicate the kopitiam's stance with them.

She shared that she would prefer "reminding such customers face-to-face politely", and many of her past patrons have responded positively to her request and stopped consuming food or drinks bought elsewhere.

Kopitiam is privately-owned, can set its own rules

Speaking to Shin Min, lawyer Lam Kuet Keng explained that for government-run hawkers, all charges would need to be in accordance with the relevant laws.

However, in this case, the owner and manager could legally set up their own rules as the kopitiam is a privately-owned business entity, just like some local privately-owned clubs also only allow authorised individuals to enter certain areas.

Top images via Shin Min Daily News' Facebook page and Google maps.