After serving the delicious ang thau sng (ice kacang) for more than 94 years, Penang's famous Swatow Lane is likely to be shut down in 10 days. Founded by Chinese immigrant Lee Kar Tee in 1923, the landmark shop was started as a small pushcart. Today it is operated by Lee's grandsons and great-grandsons. The decision is due to the rising operation cost which the team couldn't afford anymore.
"The costs of being the anchor tenant here are too high, we can't afford it anymore," said Lee's great-grandsons Bernard Lee said to Today Online. "Next month onwards, we were told to pay additional costs for cleaners and grease traps, which brings the overhead to RM60,000... too high for us to cover, especially when business here has been slow in recent years," he added. Currently, the team is paying RM56,000 (S$17,784) every month as rentals to all 27 stalls in the hawk center.
He said they were already paying over RM56,000 (S$17,784) each month to cover the rental of all 27 stalls in the hawker center. The Lee family is also responsible for collecting and managing the rents of all the stalls here.
The ice kacang sales are said to have fallen drastically after rumors of New World Park shut down emerged in 2015. Following which many stores in the center gave up and moved up because of which the Lee family was burdened with the rental of the unoccupied stalls.
The Sun Daily reported that Bernard's father, Eng Lai, 67, is planning to take a break after shutting down the operations. "I will take a break before deciding what is next," he said adding he might be going on a cruise with friends for a chance to unwind and plan what to do in the future.
Amidst all these, the hawker center spokesman has clarified that there will not be any hike in the monthly rentals and the operating hours will also remain the same. He also hoped that the famous Swatow Lane ice kacang stall will continue their business.