Less than two years after it was launched to provide more recreational options at the popular East Coast Park, some of Parkland Green’s tenants are seeing business take a hit after the authorities imposed parking charges at the cluster last year, with the situation compounded by factors such as the haze and a lack of publicity.
Parking at the area’s nearest carpark was free when the development opened in September 2014, but last July, the National Parks Board (NParks), which manages the space, began imposing charges for parking. Soon after, footfall and earnings tumbled, said some tenants.
At Atmosphere Bistro and Bar, sales have fallen 10 to 15 per cent since visitors started being charged for parking, said its director Chiam Wee Leong, 32.
Ms Didi Gan, 29, who co-owns Pick Me Up Cafe, said business has plummeted by 40 per cent since January last year, with charged parking a contributing factor.
“A lot of people also gave us phone calls (and) were unhappy … that they have to (pay) to go to the park,” said Ms Gan. Her cafe used to open for lunch, but stopped doing so because of poor business.
HAZE, ECONOMIC CLIMATE ALSO CONTRIBUTING FACTORS: NPARKS
Parkland Green, together with another development Marine Cove, was developed by NParks as part of efforts to improve amenities at the park, which attracts more than seven million visitors a year.
Responding to TODAY’s queries, NParks’ director of parks Chia Seng Jiang said some tenants had noted that business slowed in the second half of last year compared with the initial months of opening.
“This could be attributed to a combination of factors, including the haze situation, cyclical nature of business operations, competition from new businesses in the vicinity that have opened more recently, as well as the overall weak economic climate,” Mr Chia said.
Indeed, the haze that blanketed Singapore last September and October was cited by some Parkland Green tenants — which total 11 — as contributing to the sluggish business.
“Due to the haze period, there (was) a drastic drop (in business) because we are by the seaside,” said Mr Chiam.
Other factors highlighted include insufficient publicity. Ms Gan felt publicity was much better for other parks, but particularly not so for East Coast Park.
Mr Chiam acknowledged that while media coverage during Parkland Green’s opening led to a surge in visitors, “after some time, there (are) always new places to (visit) in Singapore”.
Addressing efforts on the publicity front, NParks’ Mr Chia said the agency has been working with tenants to publicise their activities and promotions on various platforms, including the NParks website.
It has also engaged tenants at events such as the Parkland Green Blogger’s Trail, which gave tenants a platform to showcase their offerings, he said.
Mr Raj Patro, 50, owner of Patro’s Sports Bar and Restaurant, said his business was affected by the haze last year, but has picked up since. Adding that he felt the parking charges are reasonable, he said: “It will be very good if you can make it (a) free car park, but again, people (could) misuse it.”
Ultimately, Ms Gan said the decision to renew her lease would hinge on whether the crowd picks up and if publicity efforts are stepped up.
A 28-year-old manager at one of the cafes, who declined to be named, echoed this view, saying: “We are trying to turn the tide around. But if (business) is continuing (this way), I don’t think we are continuing (our lease).”
Elsewhere in East Coast Park were also signs of sluggish business. Some tenants at Big Splash said that despite free parking being offered during certain hours on weekdays, business remained slow. Free parking was implemented last September from midnight to 5pm every weekday, except on public holidays.
Mr Vincent Teng, 42, who owns Sunrise Bistro and Bar, noted that the hours in which free parking is offered are not the eatery’s peak hours. He suggested that free parking be offered from 6pm to 10pm instead to draw the dinner crowd.
His restaurant has been making a loss since it began operations in December 2014, added Mr Teng, citing the high rent, low footfall and the haze as among the factors.
At Raintree Cove, business has also been hit. East Coast Prawning has seen business slide by 30 per cent from about five months ago, said Mr Tan Ah Chai, 51, a staff member.
“With the economic situation, business will drop,” Mr Tan told TODAY.
Source : Channel NewsAsia – 2 Feb 2016