Food court operators say millions spent on upgrades, assuring it will likely remain open 'beyond 2020' as redevelopment plans have been put on hold.
GEORGE TOWN: Hawkers at the famous New World Park food court are upset that many have stopped dropping by after news spread like wildfire that a famous ais kacang stall was making its exit at the end of the month.
Yeoh Hock Beng, a chee cheong fun seller, said “some people” had spread news that the entire food court was closing down, following the impending exit of the ais kacang seller.
“There is a message on Facebook claiming we are closing shop, that all 27 traders here are leaving. That is not true at all,” the 54-year-old told FMT.
Recently, the famous Swatow Lane Ais Kacang stall announced it would be leaving the food court at the end of the month due to the increase in costs.
Char koay teow seller Lee Seng Seng, 61, said news that the ais kacang seller was leaving had caused a significant dip in business.
“Ais kacang or not, we will be okay. But don’t go telling others we are closed, that is doing no good for us,” he said.
Another trader, Tai Chien Kiau, 60, called on the food court management to resolve the “ais kacang crisis” which was causing business to sour.
Food court owners to persuade ‘ais kacang’ operator to return
Despite the rumours circulating online, New World Park operator PPB Group Berhad (PPB) said it was business as usual and that there would be no closure.
As for the famous ais kacang shop, PPB property division chief operating officer Chew Hwei Yeow said they were trying to persuade the stall owner to stay on.
“The claims of high rent are not accurate. The rental has always been low, and it has remained so for the past few years.
“Beside rent, other fees spent are for cutlery, cleaning and maintenance.
“We have spoken to them on many occasions over the years and always had a ear for them,” he said in an interview today.
When asked what would happen if the ais kacang trader insisted on leaving, Chew said he was optimistic he would stay on.
“We will always continue to engage them (the traders). If they really want to leave, we cannot stop them. We would have no other choice but to look for a new main tenant,” he said.
PPB is formerly known as Perlis Plantations Berhad.
Last year, PPB announced plans to redevelop the five-acre New World Park site, bounded by the Burmah, Swatow and Hutton roads in George Town.
According to The Star, the tenancy agreement with 28 hawkers and five retail outlets would be extended from time to time, until the development was set to begin.
It was said that the development would begin in 2020.
In anticipation, retail outlets such as Starbucks and OldTown White Coffee packed up and left. The development plan was later shelved, but the impression of the “closure” has lingered on.
According to Chew, New World Park will remain indefinitely open, “beyond 2020”.
He said the company is planning to spend millions to refurbish and renovate the food mall.
“We are adding life to the food court. We are upgrading the toilets, gardens and improving the general outlook of the food court.
“We want to restore the vibrancy of this historic park.”
Locally known as “Sin Sei Kai”, the Hokkien translation of New World Park, the park was reopened to the public in 2008, after being closed for nearly 40 years.
It opened its doors in the 1930s, establishing itself as a premier amusement centre.