Management dispute leaves coffee shop in darkness
Stallholders left in lurch when power was abruptly cut. They also have to leave coffee shop because operator is returning it to HDB
A management dispute resulting in arrears owed to the authorities has left a coffee shop at Dover Crescent in darkness and its stallholders in limbo since Monday morning.
Power supply at Zheng Hua (Eating House) had been cut, forcing the 10 stallholders to stop their businesses abruptly.
Besides suffering losses from the electricity cut, they also have to move out because the coffee shop operator, Madam Deng Hua, is returning the coffee shop back to the Housing Board.
When the electricity went off at about 11am on Monday, Ministry of Ribs stallholder, Mr Kleiser Lee, 32, said he had to throw out perishables like premium meat, costing him about $1,000.
Another stallholder, who wanted to be known only as Mr Rahman, 32, said he had to throw out vegetables, chicken and mutton.
"They were very smelly. I had a lot of stock - about two to three days' worth," he said.
A seafood stallholder, Mr Ong Kah Tong, 45, said he had to throw out two Styrofoam boxes of raw ingredients like prawns, fish slices, oysters, pork and beef. He estimated he lost about $8,000.
He said in Mandarin: "We were not prepared for this. And this happened on a Monday, when we would stock up for the next two to three days."
The stallholders also have to prepare for a move because Madam Deng, who is in her 40s, will return the coffee shop to HDB. She has to return an unoccupied coffee shop.
Mr Rahman, who started operating his stall just last month, said he invested about $30,000 into his stall, including renovation and kitchen equipment.
The father of a four-year-old boy said: "Now, I have no income, what to do? I am seeing other places."
Mr Lee said he is looking at a loss of about $60,000 every month if he stops operating.
He said: "In this short time, I have no place to go. I have labour costs. I cannot just terminate my three workers, I still have to pay them.
"I also have to spend money to get movers to shift my kitchen equipment, like my commercial chillers, oven and char boiler.
"I was told I have to move out. Otherwise, HDB will seize the place and I don't know if I can get my equipment back."
Mr Ong has no plans for now.
He said: "Without electricity, it is too dark inside the coffee shop and it is very dangerous to move things out.
"The kitchen equipment is bulky. It is unlike moving a chair or table."
When contacted, Madam Deng, who said she rented the coffee shop from HDB two years ago, said she wanted to stop running the coffee shop.
She said: "I had a divorce and that's why I don't want to run the coffee shop anymore. I wanted to transfer the coffee shop to someone else."
But there had been some dispute over the management of the coffee shop with the person she intended to transfer the business to, which in turn led to arrears in rental and utilities bills owed to HDB and SP Services.
Replying to media queries, an HDB spokesman said the tenant informed them that she will be returning the eating house to HDB.
"After the eating house is returned, we will let it out so that residents' needs can continue to be served. The tenant is in rental arrears and we will discuss with her the options to settle the arrears," the spokesman said.
An SP Services spokesman said it had been in contact with the customer since Sept 16 on her payment default.
He said: "On multiple occasions, she promised to pay within a certain time frame, but failed to do so.
"She did not cite difficulties in making payment when asked."
He noted its officers also offered her deferred payment plans to manage her arrears, but she continued to default on payment over an extended period of time.
Despite notices of cessation of supply, she did not fulfil repeated promises to pay, he said.
He said: "We have to act accordingly to be fair to all our customers who pay promptly. Hence, supply was terminated to this customer on Nov 30."
As of yesterday, power had not been restored.