Outdoor eating returns to Singapore

SINGAPORE -- The aromas, sights and sounds of open-air food stalls will return to Singapore this summer along Smith Street in Chinatown.

Developers in August will unveil 18 permanent outdoor food outlets and a 300-seat outdoor eating area along the street, after the government lifted a nearly 20-year ban on food hawking in the streets due to concerns about poor hygiene and sanitation in open-air food stalls.

Dubbed the Smith Street Transformation Project, the outdoor food venue is part of a multi-agency tourism effort spearheaded by the Singapore Tourism Board and the Chinatown Business Association.

Street food hawking was last seen here in 1982. The new food stalls are being modeled after the original hawker stalls.

Developers said the food stalls were designed to meet the stringent criteria set by the Ministry of the Environment.

Renovations, which cost in excess of $1 million, include installing the stalls, upgrading electrical wiring, extending the sidewalk along the street and installing signs.

Singapore's Land Office owns the 19 shophouses along Smith Street and out of these, two are occupied by restaurant operators. Sixteen shophouses will be filled by tenants with restaurant concepts that align with the proposed plan for the food street.

"Food will only be one of the attractions," said Edmund Chua, deputy director, Singapore Tourist Board.

"It is the vibrancy and activity that are going to return to this part of Chinatown that will draw the crowd of locals and foreigners," he said.

According to the tourist board, the Smith Street transformation plan received a "warm welcome" from the shopkeepers on both sides of the street when it was presented late last year.

"Whether they directly benefit from the renovation or not, the shopkeepers are confident that the increased level of activity in the area, resulting from the food street, will boost their business," the tourist board said.

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