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Luk Lu Eating House, a beach road kopitiam, reportedly put up signs warning customers not to eat and drink outside or face a S$10 surcharge.
According to Shin Min daily news (Shin Min), tThe signs, written in both English and Mandarin, were pasted all over the kopitiam, including on the walls and pillars.
When, however Mothership visited the kopitiam on 10th january, all the surcharge signs were gone.
The only sign left was one written in English, which read “no outside food or drink allowed”.
Manager has hung signs because many eat and drink outside
Speak against Mothership, the kopitiam manager, Richard, said the sign was put up about two months ago. The intention was to deter visitors from consuming food and drinks in the store outside.
He explained Shin Min that many had done for the past five or six years, the most common being drinking coffee bought elsewhere.
“Since we sell copy and bread ourselves, [people who consume outside food or drinks] will affect our business. Some even left after dinner without cleaning up,” explains Richard.
Richard also said that occasionally a group of friends came by, but only one of them bought food from the street vendors. Everyone else would bring food from elsewhere.
These encounters led him to put up the signs so that the kopitiam “doesn’t have to clean up the mess left by some customers who haven’t even bought anything from the store”.
Signs were effective, no one has been charged yet
Richard considers the signs effective because “many felt put off”, and the situation improved significantly after they were put up.
He told Shin Min that when people brought food and drink to the kopitiam outside, the street vendors could remind them simply by pointing at the sign.
However, he clarified that no one had been charged the S$10 since the signs were put up.
Supported by peddlers
Two peddlers talking Mothership shared on the condition of anonymity that they support having the signs at the kopitiam.
According to a hawker, since the kopitiam is located near Haji Lane where many cafes are located, many visitors who cannot find seats in the cafes choose to have their coffee in the kopitiam.
“This one [behaviour] would affect my business, wouldn’t it?” asked the hawker.
Likewise another anonymous peddler interviewed by Shin Min also saw benefits in putting the sign up as it helps them avoid face-to-face confrontation with guests, which can lead to unnecessary fights.
“If people saw the sign, they would understand [and stop consuming outside food and drinks] right away,” said the other hawker who spoke Mothership.
Diners get it too
Patrons of the kopitiam interviewed by Shin Min also had no problems with the fees.
A taxi driver said he doesn’t understand why people choose to consume food and drinks outside at the kopitiam as they are available here.
Boards removed by kopitiam owner
Despite these supportive voices, the owner of the kopitiam, whose last name is Tan, decided to remove the sign after her friends sent her Shin Min‘s report.
She said Mothership that she was surprised by the news because she was “not informed by the manager that he would put up the signs in advance”.
She then removed the kopitiam’s plates as she feared they would scare off customers.
While Tan is aware of visitors bringing outside food and drink to the kopitiam, she nevertheless believes that the sign is not the best way to communicate the kopitiam’s point of view with them.
She shared that she would prefer to “politely remind such customers in person,” and many of her past customers have responded positively to her request and have stopped consuming food or drink purchased elsewhere.
Kopitiam is privately owned, can set its own rules
Speak against Shin Minlawyer Lam Kuet Keng explained that for government-run peddlers, all charges must be in accordance with relevant laws.
However, in this case the owner and the manager can legally make their own rules since the kopitiam is a private business entity just like some local private clubs also allow only authorized persons to enter certain areas.
Top images via Shin Min Daily News Facebook page and Google maps.