As regulars know, Restoran Seng Lee is packed every lunchtime. This popular hawker centre on Jalan Batai has been around for over 30 years, drawing people from near and far for pork noodles, char kway teow and wantan mee. The rojak van outside does brisk business too.
Getting a seat here is often a squeeze and you pay the price of smelling like a fiery wok when you come out. But for customers, it’s worth it: especially as Seng Lee won’t be around for much longer.
Soon, Seng Lee – along with other shops on Jalan Batai – will close down, as the area is “upgraded”. According to Time Out KL, who have followed the area’s redevelopment plans for the last few years, it’s rumoured that the restaurant chain Alexis will be taking up one of the spots.
The tenants of these lots have received termination letters from the owners and there is little they can do. Seng Lee will close at the end of this year, while it’s expected that the mamak Restoran Ameer Baru will be closing in February next year.
The family business Mui Chea Pork Noodles has been running for as long as Seng Lee has been around. “They want to make it more high-class, install air-con,” said Khoo Kah Hing, the stall owner, when asked about the developments, which are being undertaken by Selangor Properties Bhd.
However, Mui Chea Pork Noodles – along with the char kway teow stall – will be moving to another shop lot down the road. The stalls will close on 24 December and open at the new outlet on 6 January. Khoo remains optimistic that their business will survive there.
We certainly hope that he is right. Another KL institution, Yut Kee, will also be relocating to a new premises at the end of this year, with a hotel rumoured to replace their 60-year-old kopitiam on Jalan Dang Wangi. As small businesses find new ways forward, it’s up to loyal customers to follow them into the future.