Extension of cafe near ‘children on bicycle’ mural torn down

The demolished extension of the cafe at the corner of Beach Street and Armenian Street in Penang.

GEORGE TOWN: A cafe at a popular tourist quarter here had its illegal extension demolished today by the Penang Island City Council.

The move appears to be a departure from previous measures against similar offences, where land owners were urged to comply with the law after being handed compounds and fines.

A council spokesman told FMT the owner of the cafe was given notice under Section 70 of the Street, Drainage and Building Act 1974 before the demolition was carried out.

The section outlines the law concerning the construction of any building and dictates that any extension must have prior permission from local authorities.

“It is a summary action by the council and we do not wish to comment further,” the spokesman said.

According to images on Google StreetView, the old shophouse had been modified with large glass walls installed.

Google StreetView images showing the facade of the same shop in 2013 and 2017.

Images of the cafe have been widely shared on Facebook, as the eatery on the corner of Beach Street and Armenian Street shares a wall with the famous “Little Children on a Bicycle” mural which has become synonymous with Penang tourism.

The artist who painted the mural in 2012, Ernest Zacharevic, took to Instagram today to commend the city council.

In a lengthy post, the Lithuanian-born artist said that when he first drew the mural, the area was a “quiet heritage street” with barbers offering RM6 haircuts, and antique shops.

Zacharevic said it has now been turned into a street selling tourist trinkets, with the actual inhabitants of Armenian Street replaced by souvenir shops and eateries which were “insta-friendly”.

He said he blamed his own mural for the drastic change and was thinking of erasing his artwork altogether.

The cafe before its extension was demolished (Facebook pic.)

“Honestly, I’ve been contemplating simply painting over it (the bicycle mural) in the hope of putting an end to the circus. But I think the time when it would make a difference has passed.”

In a statement on Facebook, the cafe’s management said: “We will be closing for renovations until further notice is given.”