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At Ikea eatery, it's no pay, no stay

By Xu Junqian in Shanghai ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-10-13 08:03:38

At Ikea eatery, it's no pay, no stay

Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon for years, elderly people flooded to the restaurant to meet friends or a future partner at zero cost - sometimes exceeding the 700-seat capacity.[Photo by Yin liqin/Asianewsphoto]

A popular rendezvous for the elderly to socialize in Shanghai - a restaurant owned by Swedish furniture giant Ikea - is now off-limits to those who don't buy food.

Ikea told its Xuhui restaurant a week ago to prohibit people from occupying seats if they don't pay. Since then, the crowds have shrunk noticeably during the lunch hour, as much as half, according to informal observers and a security guard.

Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon for years, elderly people flooded to the restaurant to meet friends or a future partner at zero cost - sometimes exceeding the 700-seat capacity.

With an Ikea membership, which can be easily obtained with a Chinese identification card, free coffee is available.

There were complaints from paying customers during the National Day holiday, Ikea said in an email response to China Daily, explaining the restriction that took effect on Oct 5.

"It's a reasonable restriction. In the first place, Ikea is a business for profit, not a charity organization," said Liu Shihao, a college student at Shanghai Normal University, which is near the outlet.

Liu added that this was the first time he had managed to find a seat and have a bite of food at the restaurant in the three years he's been on the campus. He and his classmates went to the restaurant on Wednesday after learning about the new rule online.

Even some elderly people approved of the decision.

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