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Food, Singapore

Tiong Bahru roast meat shop to close

The Straits Times | Tuesday, Apr 29, 2014

Popular Tiong Bahru roast meat eatery, Hong Kong Jin Tian, will shut its doors after this weekend - in the continuing exodus of old-timers from the now hipster estate.

The eatery's owners, a couple who moved from Hong Kong to Singapore in 1986, say they are moving after the landlord upped the rent for the 1,100 sq ft to 1,200 sq ft shop in Eng Hoon Street from about $8,000 to $12,000 a month.

Owner Yip Kwok Ching, 62, says he is still hunting for another location to continue his business. The nearby Redhill market is one possibility.

His wife, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Yip, says: "Of course, we are not happy about leaving because we have been here for many years."

The couple started their eatery at a Tiong Bahru market stall in 2000 before moving it to the coffee shop five years later. It has been there since.

Mrs Yip, 56, says: "Newcomers don't know the going rate for the place and spoil the market for us. It affects traditional food such as ours."

Jacking up prices will not help pay the rent, she adds. Jin Tian charges $3 for a plate of roast meat with rice. Add 20 cents to the cost and customers will not come, she says. "It's very strange because customers are willing to pay $6 for a slice of cake across the road," says Mrs Yip, gesturing to the nearby Tiong Bahru Bakery.

Jin Tian's is, by now, a familiar story in the now popular retro enclave with its pre- and post-war flats.

Housewife Ang Soo Leong, a longtime resident, hopes another hipster joint is not sprouting up in its place.

Mrs Ang, 84, moved to the area after she was displaced during the Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961. She says in Mandarin: "It is a pity that the old businesses are gone because they hold a slice of history. The new places charge such high prices, I dare not step inside."

The influx of new ventures began around 2010 when artisanal coffee joint 40 Hands opened in Yong Siak Street. Since then, chic boutiques, cafes and bookstores have sprouted.

Long-time business owners in the area are receiving sizeable offers.

Mr Rodney Goh, 59, of provision shop Pin Pin Piau Kay & Co in Seng Poh Road, says he gets offers to rent or buy his 1,500 sq ft space "every other day". Offers go as high as $2 million to buy or about $10,000 a month to rent.

Mr Michael Chan, 66, who owns hardware shop Hock Eng Hin in Seng Poh Road, says he has received six serious requests to buy or rent his 1,300 sq ft space in the past two years, with offers reaching up to $1 million.

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