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When dining in for two people was allowed on June 21 after the dine-in ban during the Heightened Alert phase, not all restaurants rejoiced. In fact, some zi char joints where communal dining is the name of the game didn't welcome the news at all. Third-generation owner Paul Liew, 39, of Keng Eng Kee Seafood, a well-loved family-run zi char eatery in Bukit Merah says: “We lost a good 30 percent of biz once dine-in [for two-pax] started. Zi char, as a cuisine, is not made for two”.

That’s partly why third-gen co-owner Wong Siew Keong of Michelin Bib Gourmand zi char stalwart Kok Sen at Keong Saik Road didn’t bother opening his restaurant for dine-in customers from June 21 till just yesterday (July 6), focusing instead on takeaways. “When only two people [at a table] were allowed to dine in, business actually got worse for most zi char places,” says the 44-year-old. “We wouldn’t have been able to make money [if we had welcomed dine-in customers], and might even [have lost money by spending on] air-conditioning, dishwashers and so on,” he explains.

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