GEORGE TOWN: With the “table war” at food courts getting out of hand – there have even been scuffles between hawkers – the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) has been forced to step in.

A number of photos and videos have gone viral online showing hawkers fighting over where customers can sit, with police reports being lodged as well.

The hawkers force customers to buy their food from the stalls nearest to where they are seated. If they order from other stalls, quarrels ensue.

The council, however, is having none of it.

Bright red signages have now been placed at popular hawker centres to make it clear that “the customers are free to sit anywhere and order from any stall”.

The signages have a phone number which the public can call if hawkers force them to sit elsewhere. The hawkers can be slapped with a notice or show cause letter.

In serious cases, the stalls involved would be shut down for 60 days pending investigations, warned MBPP councillor Connie Tan.

Hard to miss it: Another sign board put up by MBPP at Medan Renong, Esplanade, George Town.Hard to miss it: Another sign board put up by MBPP at Medan Renong, Esplanade, George Town.

She said there had been too many complaints and videos of scuffles at eateries.

“This is not something new but there have been many complaints during this post-pandemic period as more tourists are visiting Penang. So, we put up the signages last year,” she said.

Tan said the fights were not only over tables and chairs belonging to the respective stalls but also at food courts where the tables and chairs were provided by the council.

“The latest incident took place a month ago when traders started arguing and fighting,” she said.

At the popular Medan Renong food court along the Esplanade, where some 50 stalls sell local dishes, the prominent sign has been set up right in the middle of the seating area.

Several such signs have also been put up along another popular food court in Padang Brown.

Medan Renong food court chairman Asmadi Mohd Razuki said the stall operators could not force customers to only buy food or drinks from stalls near the seats.

“The tables and chairs belong to the local council and customers are free to order from any stalls,” he said.

Zulkifli Abdul, 48, who runs a laksa stall there, said he supported the decision to allow customers to sit where they liked.

“Before this, there would be an issue and customers often felt uncomfortable. It gave us a bad image,” he said.

Zulkifli said it was all about customers enjoying their food.

“We hope they like our food and continue to patronise our stalls next time around,” he said.