Century-old shop faces closure

End of the road: Kong Thai Lai Coffee Shop in Hutton Lane.

Another of Penang’s spots to enjoy kaya and butter toast with half-boiled eggs for breakfast is expected to close shop.

The almost century-old traditional Hainanese coffee shop, Kong Thai Lai in Hutton Lane, has to move out following an eviction notice issued by the landowner.

Tenants of four neighbouring shoplots have also been given their marching orders.

“I felt really sad when I received the eviction notice about a month ago. This is the place where my siblings and I grew up. It has a lot of sentimental value,” said Tan Jeng Seow, the third generation Kong Thai Lai Coffee Shop operator.

“The coffee shop was started in 1920 and handed down from my grandfather to my father and later to my brother.

“I only took over the business a couple of years ago after my brother passed away,” said the 56-year-old yesterday.

Tan has no choice but to move out. “The landowner has the right to evict us, but I hope the owner can grant me more time to relocate.

“I still have no idea where I should go. I want to find a place to continue the business, but rental is too expensive. It may get up to a few thousand ringgit, or even RM7,000 if the location is good.

“It will be good if we can move out at the end of the year, so that we could have sufficient time to get a new place. I also hope that the landowner can give me compensation of about RM15,000.

“If I cannot find an affordable place to rent, I will have to end this business and find something else to do,” he said.

Malaysia’s very own Mr Honda, the late Tan Sri Loh Boon Siew, used to patronise the place almost daily.

The shop’s simple fare and aromatic cuppa also saw “Sugar King of Asia” Tan Sri Robert Kuok visiting the shop in 2011.

Penang Gerakan state liaison committee member H’ng Khoon Leng urged the state government to take measures to maintain intangible heritage in the state.

“The traditional coffee shop is one of the intangible heritage and one of the factors that earned Penang a spot on the Unesco World Heritage listing,” he told a press conference at the coffee shop..

Penang Gerakan noted that George Town has about 600 traditional trades and occupations and Kong Thai Lai is one of them. - The Star

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