Source: Sum Yi Tai’s Facebook post

Another renowned food and beverage (F&B) business in Singapore, Sum Yi Tai, has fallen victim to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic recently.

The Cantonese bar and restaurant announced on its Facebook page on Sunday (15 Nov) that it has shut down its establishment at 25 Boon Tat Street after “nearly six years” of operation.

“Goodbye to our beautiful rooftop, our gangster-themed Tapas Bar and our sensuous Mona Lounge. Goodbye to Sum Yi Tai, Mona, our fictional character with an exciting back story who has entertained all of us for nearly 6 years,” it wrote.

The tapas bar noted that the closures were due to high rental cost amid the global pandemic.

“Our landlord insists on pre-COVID rent and while all of you have been very supportive, these are not pre COVID times,” Sum Yi Tai stated.

“Our business has become unviable due to large percentage that rent will take up,” it added.

Sum Yi Tai, which means “Third Wife” in Cantonese, is owned by Coterie Dining Concepts.

The tapas bar was conceptualised to pay tribute to the decadent glamour of 1980s Hong Kong, which offers dim sum lunch and classic Cantonese dishes in an oriental setting.

Its owner, Coterie Dining Concepts, is co-founded by Sandra Sim and Sharon Sim in 2014. The company has opened four concept bars so far, cocktail backroom Mona Lounge, Shanghai-inspired bar and club Eliza, mod-sushi and highball bar Chi Kinjo, including Sum Yi Tai.

“We are holding an open house sale today and tomorrow from 1 pm to 7 pm so come if you want to take home any furniture, dining ware or memorabilia. Thank you all,” it noted.

This may not be the end of Sum Yi Tai though. The tapas bar hinted that it will reopen at a new location once it found “a good landlord”.

“We are looking to move the brand somewhere with a good landlord, so if you love what we do, stay tuned. For now, it is goodbye,” it asserted.

High rental costs are “killing” businesses in Singapore

Meanwhile, the issue of high rental cost in Singapore has been raised by many netizens previously.

When a patisserie-café chain Bakerzin shut all its five outlets islandwide on 9 October, netizens speculated that the closing was highly caused by the high rental costs amid the pandemic and that the costs are “killing” F&B businesses in Singapore.

In fact, Singapore Democratic Party’s (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan also pointed out on 31 October that the high rental cost is killing businesses in Singapore, not the coronavirus pandemic, nor the e-commerce.

“Reports say that it is COVID-19 and online buying that has killed the once-proud business. But there’s more to it than just the pandemic and e-commerce,” said Dr Chee in a Facebook post, referring to the Robinsons Singapore’s closures announcement on 30 October.

“It’s called rent. High rental in Singapore is killing businesses,” he added.

Dr Chee said that many retail brands in the city-state – such as Marks & Spencer, John Little, MPH, Forever 21, and many others – have shuttered years before the global pandemic even took place.

“The R&D arms of pharmaceutical giants like Eli Lilly, Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, and Novartis have also left. Business analysts say that high costs contributed to the closures.

“Banks like ANZ, Barclays, Standard Chartered, HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, and ING have trimmed their operations because, as observers note, Singapore ‘is an extremely expensive place to do business’,” he asserted.

Dr Chee also claimed that between HDB, JTC, CapitaLand, Mapletree, and Surbana, the government is the biggest landlord.

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