The Big Orange Food Station, located on part of the compound of the former Cheng Siu Primary school is no ordinary hawker centre. With fourteen stalls operating in the morning to evening and some at night, it is the favourite haunt of middle-aged customers and senior citizens. Why it has become such a popular ‘joint’ for these customers is not hard to guess. Since July the establishment has introduced amateur singers in their thirties and late forties to entertain customers from 9.00pm to 11.00 pm with their Mandarin, Hokkien and Cantonese oldies.
Unlike the Disco 2000 nightclub where singers from China in their glittering gowns and outlandish attire belt out their songs and where drinks are exorbitantly priced, this poor cousin seems to be a considerably cheaper alternative for the middle-aged working class and the retired who are in need of a little titillation. The four singers that take to the stage nightly are not paid but are ‘tipped’ by customers who will buy ribbon garlands for their favourite singers.
The garland doesn’t come cheap at 10 ringgit per garland. A customer would buy the garland from the payment counter and bring it to the stage to put it round the neck of his favourite singer. A singer could, in the two hours earn an average of 50 ringgit a night. Of course, customers will have to pay more to hear them sing. A Tiger beer goes up from RM 12.00 to RM13.00 between 9.00pm and 11.00pm. Coffee or tea drinkers likewise have to pay 10 sen more.
On that particular night when I was there, an obviously tipsy husband incurred the wrath of his wife when he foolishly bought and hung a garland on a singer. The wife stood up abruptly, pushing away her chair and strode angrily toward the entrance. The husband meanwhile sat for a moment before getting up and went looking for the wife.
The food station has also inadvertently become a place for illegal horse-betting bookies to collect bets on Friday nights, Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evenings from punters who comprise primarily the middle-aged and the senior citizens.
The operator has also provided free internet access in the hope of pulling in the internet crowd, but on any given day, few if any of them could be seen.