Joo Chiat Road’s famous Teochew muay (Teochew porridge), Xu Jun Sheng Teochew Cuisine, will close on 14 April.
It will be the end of the road after 76 years, reports Chinese newspaper, Shin Min Daily News.
High rental and lack of younger people to hand down the business to.
According to the Chinese paper, the owner of the business, Mr Koh Long Swee, said rent had increased from $4,800 to $6,500. After paying utilities, their monthly costs total about $10,000.
The restaurant has survived increased rental in the past, by moving to alternative locations when rent was hiked. It has moved four times in the past but this latest hike in rent seems to have done the business in for good.
However, another reason for the closure is that there are no younger people from the family to take over the business. They have all established their own career, Mr Koh told the press.
“This is a family business, so we’re hoping our children will take over. But the younger generation may not like it because there are many daily tasks and small errands to run,” youngest brother Koh Long Eng said last year.
The restaurant is being run by the elder Mr Koh, his elder sister, and three brothers. All of them are aged between 62 and 67. They had inherited the business from their father who had started the business in Joo Chiat Place.
The closure of Xu Jun Sheng Teochew Cuisine is the latest to hit the headlines in lately.
In recent months, several prominent or famous small food businesses have also announced their closure for the same reason – hikes in rent.
In March, the famous nasi padang restaurant in River Valley announced it was folding up after more than 50 years in business.
Rent for the restaurant was being hiked by S$1,000, to S$11,000. [Read report here.]
The issue of high rental killing small businesses is emerging as a serious concern, given the number of such cases in recent times.
Workers’ Party MP Low Thia Khiang had warned of this in Parliament as far back as 2010, in particular reference to the government’s plans to have private developers run hawker centres. [See here: “Private hawker centres – Low Thia Khiang sounded warning”] The problems look to continue, given how coffeeshops are changing hands for substantial amount of money.
In July last year, a coffeeshop in Hougang was sold for a then record sum of S$23.8m.
A week later, another coffeeshop in Tampines was asking for S$12m, still a significant sum.
The hawker stalls referred to by PAP politicians behind recent Facebook postings for offering affordable food had also either closed down or are struggling. [See here: “Cheap hawker food – the reality behind politicians’ Facebook postings”] High rent was also a reason for the half-deserted stalls in the privately-run hawker centre in Sengkang Square, and it was also one of the reasons for the closure of Singapore’s first hawker centre to be run by a social enterprise in Bedok.
It had opened to great fanfare, with the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Vivian Balakrishanan attending its opening ceremony. He told Parliament in March last year that he was “impressed” by what he saw.
“And the fact that this started in a private area completely without subsidies, or, indeed, without even any urging or pushing from me is to me something to be celebrated.”
[email protected], Bedok – the hawker centre he was referring to – closed just 8 months later.
One of the tenants there told the media, “We could not cover costs, we were running into big losses. I mean, the management itself was running into losses. They took on a huge responsibility, being in the private sector, to pay people to work.”
In an article last year, titled “The threats to Singapore hawkers“, hawker Daniel Goh wrote, referring to manpower costs for hawkers:
“Of course, this is not helped by the bizarre idea where the authorities are encouraging hawkers to somehow maintain prices so that food is kept at affordable prices for the masses.
“Ironically, the same authorities were far less able at stopping landlords from increasing rentals. That would have been more helpful in relieving some of the cost pressures off hawkers.
“While I agree in principle that hawker food should be affordable, the idea that hawkers should be subsidising the meals of their customers, who range from low- to high-income earners, strikes me as rather ludicrous.”