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Crowds return to popular eateries after midnight, as S’pore enters Phase 2 of reopening

SINGAPORE — With a few minutes to go before the dawn of a new day, a safety officer who wanted to be known only as Bryan, 39, ordered supper for himself.

People having supper at Enak Enak Hong Kong Tea House in Bedok Road on Friday (June 19).

People having supper at Enak Enak Hong Kong Tea House in Bedok Road on Friday (June 19).

SINGAPORE — With a few minutes to go before the dawn of a new day, a safety officer who wanted to be known only as Bryan, 39, ordered supper for himself.

His food was sent to his table at just past midnight on Thursday (June 18), as Singapore entered the second phase of its circuit breaker exit, marking the first time customers can dine in restaurants in more than two months.

In between mouthfuls of soup, Mr Bryan whom TODAY met at Supper Club 89.7 — a popular dining spot in Changi Village — said: “I’m just so excited to have my food… I wanted to eat out for so long.”

The bachelor, who lives by himself, said he regularly hunts for supper places after work. Hence, to commemorate his “newfound freedom”, he decided to dine at his favourite hangout.

The move to Phase Two of the circuit breaker exit, which would see the resumption of most activities, was announced on Monday.

However, food and beverage operators have to adhere to certain rules, such as having individuals maintain a distance of 1m from each other at all times, and only allowing groups of no more than five.

TODAY’s visits to popular supper spots such as Changi Village, Simpang Bedok and Upper Thomson Road in the wee hours of Friday found them to be bustling with diners eager to gather with friends.

Within 10 minutes of opening its seating area, Supper Club 89.7 saw around 30 people seated at its tables. Another about 10 people were standing in line to get their temperature checked outside the restaurant.

A trio of friends said they waited outside the restaurant in a parked car for half an hour for the seating area to open.

“We just wanted to hang out and have supper because it’s been so long,” said one of them, 21-year-old Ngee Ann Polytechnic student Sean Nicholas.

A group of friends, (from left) Sean Nicholas, Alrasyid Waterkamp and Bryan Sheng, were at Supper Club 89.7 in Changi Village. Photo: Ili Nadhirah Mansor/TODAY

Mr Lee Jun De, owner of Supper Club 89.7 in Changi Village, was surprised by the turnout.

“I thought it would only get crowded on Friday night onwards, when the weekend starts,” he said.

Mr Lee had asked his staff to be more vigilant in ensuring patrons observe social distancing measures.

“This is going to be the toughest part — customers may drag their chairs from one table to another to join their friends or family members. We would have to tell them off,” he said.

Equally bustling were the eateries at Simpang Bedok such as Spize and Enak Enak Hongkong Tea House. Almost every other table at the stretch of restaurants were occupied with diners, who seemed enlivened after being able to meet their friends or significant other.

Opposite them, New Mahamoodiya restaurant was also ready to welcome back its loyal customers.

Manager Abdul Karir said he received more than 30 calls from customers who asked if they could dine past midnight on Thursday. This spurred him to call two more staff in for the late shift.

“Honestly, I didn’t think there would be a crowd but we’d never know,” he said.

The scene at The Roti Prata House along Upper Thomson Road. Photo: Low Youjin/TODAY

At The Roti Prata House along Upper Thomson Road, a majority of the crowd started streaming in after 12.30am, with lines of motorcycles parked along Jalan Keli.

The crowd was generally youthful, and TODAY counted at least 50 within the eatery. They were all seated safely apart from each other, and in groups of no more than five.

Among them was a 25-year-old civil servant who wanted to be known only as Syah. He was seated with a female friend who declined to be named.

They said that before the circuit breaker started, they would regularly have “prata dates” about twice a week — though these were rarely after midnight.

They said it has been awhile since they satisfied their cravings for a crispy prata, and as much as they enjoyed the offerings of food delivery, it was something that “had to be eaten fresh”.

More importantly, it gave them a chance to be out of the house, even if it was for a short while.

“It’s great to have this freedom, to just go out and makan (eat) without worry,” he said.

Time For Thai staff preparing for diners to arrive. Photo: Low Youjin/TODAY

Over at Cheong Chin Nam Road, which hosts several popular supper spots, the situation was slightly different when TODAY visited between 11.50pm and 12.15am.

There was no expectant crowd in sight waiting for midnight, though there were more than a handful waiting for their takeaway orders.

Most of the eateries themselves appeared to be winding down for the day, with the exception of a few. Among them was Thai restaurant Time For Thai.

The restaurant’s director, Mr Jaryl Sim, was seen instructing his staff and getting the place ready for business after midnight

The 30-year-old said he had received calls from regulars asking if his establishment would be open after 12am.

Mr Sim said he was “excited” that Phase Two started earlier than he expected, as his business has dropped by as much as 60 per cent.

Next door at the popular halal eatery Al-Azhar, the staff were preparing to call it a night after they had served the last customer waiting for a takeaway order.

Its operations manager, Mr Samsudin, said that they will no longer be able to keep their operations running beyond midnight like before, as most of their staff were from Malaysia.

Meanwhile, some Singaporeans said they are still not comfortable with leaving the house just yet, unless it is to run essential tasks.

Mr Shaun Ho, a 34-year-old logistics operations manager, said: “I will still treat (this period) the same as Phase One as I’m honestly afraid of large crowds.

“Just because shops are allowed to open doesn’t mean the virus suddenly disappeared overnight.”

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Covid-19 coronavirus Phase 2 circuit breaker food court

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