The owner of rat-infested restaurant Hotpot Culture will be offering an entire day of free food once he gets clearance from the National Environment Agency (NEA) to reopen.

Mr Lim Choon Kok told Yahoo Singapore that he wanted to serve the free food “as a way to apologise” to the public after a dead rat was found in one of its vegetable dishes earlier this month.

“I am really sorry that a lapse happened at our restaurant. I hope that the public will please give me a chance, a helping hand to start again,” said an emotional Lim, 58, who has been coming to his empty restaurant every day for the past eleven days to assist in investigations.

He added that the restaurant would give a full refund to any of the patrons who had eaten there on the day of the incident (9 Jan).

Since the incident, Lim has spent about $3,000 sealing up the gaps in his kitchen’s false ceiling and the area around his storeroom. Furthermore, he engaged a pest control operator to conduct rat treatment every week after two rats were caught at the premises. Staff were also seen scrubbing the floors of the restaurant on Tuesday afternoon.

While Lim admits that it was the restaurant’s fault that a rat had made its way into a dish, he believes that it is not a hygiene issue but an issue due to his chef’s carelessness.

As his chef leaves the stainless steel lid of the pot slightly open overnight to prevent the vegetables from going bad, he thinks it is how the rat managed to get into the dish.

Lim conceded: “I admit we handled the matter unprofessionally because all of us couldn’t believe that it had happened. In my six years of running a restaurant I never imagined this could happen,” he said.

The vegetable dish has since been taken off the menu and the restaurant now has a policy that all food should be cooked and consumed on the same day.

Lim then shifted the blame to the renovation and construction works at the lower floors in Marina Square. A check with other tenants also yield similar observations.

Lim said that since the restaurant closed for business, he has been under tremendous stress.

“I feel so stressed, and my family, they are so stressed too. I don’t know how to make this right,” he said.

“Eleven days feels like eleven years.”

He said the restaurant has thrown away about $2,000 worth of food in the past 10 days since its suspension.

“We sterilize and clean the tables after each group of diners, as well as the floors. This is our standard practice. I don’t know why this has happened to us,” said Lim.

Before the incident, the restaurant had been rated “B” by NEA for its cleanliness and hygiene.

“I really hope NEA gives us the green light soon.”

Lim faces a fine of up to $2,000 for selling unclean food, and will also be issued six demerit points under NEA’s points demerit system.

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