Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Straits Times : Tiong Bahru's new F&B outlets irk residents

28th April 2012
The Straits Times
By Tay Suan Chiang

Many want to limit the number of outlets, but some welcome the new buzz 

NOISY PATRONS: A resident complained that with the arrival of new establishments like SocialHaus, the once-quiet Yong Siak Street is noisy at night. -- ST PHOTOS: NURIA LING

DELIVERYMAN Wee Chye Guan was happy living in Tiong Bahru until a new crop of hip eateries popped up in his estate.

Along Yong Siak Street, where he lives on the ground floor of a four-storey block, three establishments - 40 Hands, Open Door Policy and SocialHaus - have opened in the last two years.

They occupy the ground floor of the area's famed walk-up apartments.

'The diners talk and laugh very loudly at night, and it gets worse when they are drunk,' said Mr Wee, 60, adding that he has called the police several times.

'It used to be quiet on this street,' added the resident of more than 20 years.

Other residents said the new arrivals have brought parking woes, especially on Friday and Saturday nights and eve of public holidays.

The new kids on the block are cafes 40Hands, which opened in 2010, and The Orange Thimble and Drips Bakery Cafe, which did so last year. Open Door Policy, a restaurant, and SocialHaus, a restaurant and bar, also opened last year.

They add to the 18 food joints already in the area, such as the well-known Por Kee Eating House and Ah Chiang's Porridge. The Straits Times understands that at least two more food and beverage outlets will be opening in the estate this year.

It is not a prospect that Yong Siak Street resident Regina Tay, 37, welcomes, as she already finds the street congested.

PARKING WOES: A row of vehicles parked along Yong Siak Street on Thursday night. Residents said the new eateries have brought parking problems, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. -- ST PHOTOS: NURIA LING

'Diners park on both sides of the road, despite double-yellow lines on one side and season-parking spaces on the other,' said the lawyer and resident of five years. She has called the Land Transport Authority (LTA) several times to complain.

Ms Eleanor Chong, 34, a senior manager who lives in Seng Poh Road, said there are nights when she has to park farther away because diners have taken up the season-parking spaces.

Residents are hoping that a limit can be set on the number of food and beverage outlets opening in the area, taking a cue from what has happened in Serangoon Gardens.

Acting on residents' complaints over parking, the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) imposed a ban in February on converting more Serangoon Gardens shophouses into eateries.

In Yio Chu Kang, the URA did not allow three eateries to renew their licences because of traffic problems.

'There should be control now, why wait till that stage to try to resolve a big problem?' asked civil servant Deanne Tan, 34, who has lived in Yong Siak Street for two years.

A spokesman for the Housing Board, which manages the shop spaces on the ground floor of the walk-up apartments, said it evaluates requests to convert HDB shops into family restaurants based on factors such as the layout, concept and location of the unit, and whether the proposal will inconvenience residents.
Private buildings in the area fall under the purview of the URA, whose criteria for vetting change-of-use applications are largely similar to HDB's.

Meanwhile, residents have made their grievances known to the new eateries. Mr Mark Teow, owner of SocialHaus, said he will close the front windows at 10.30pm to contain the noise, and has installed noise-absorbing velvet curtains at the front and back.

Spa Esprit, which owns 40 Hands and Open Door Policy, advises diners not to park in Yong Siak Street. 'We direct them to the large parking space at the back of 40 Hands,' said Ms Janet Lim, public relations manager of Spa Esprit.

Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Indranee Rajah, who has received complaints about parking, said there is no space to build a multi-storey carpark in the estate.

She has asked the HDB to consider installing electronic signboards to indicate parking options in the area, such as the multi-storey carpark in Kim Tian Road.

She said there should be more coordination between various agencies such as the URA and LTA. 'If you allow more food and beverage outlets, there are bound to be traffic problems.'

But while some residents said they plan to come together soon as a group to meet their MP, others said there are benefits to having more eating places too.

'I don't think there are too many outlets, as they offer different foods,' said public relations director Jansen Siak, 39, who has lived in Tiong Bahru for almost three years.

Retiree Mok Hin Wing, 79, a resident of 46 years, feels that the new facilities have given a fresh feel to the neighbourhood.

'Tiong Bahru is livelier now, and I like the buzz,' he said.


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