With booze on the menu, some Penang ‘pork-free’ outlets say can’t go halal

Most of the pork free eateries in Penang are open to applying for halal certification but did not do so because they also sell alcohol. — Picture by KE Ooi
Most of the pork free eateries in Penang are open to applying for halal certification but did not do so because they also sell alcohol. — Picture by KE Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, Feb 20 — The Penang government’s advice this week that “pork-free” eateries apply for halal certification has generated mixed responses from operators here, some who called the process too tedious while others said it was impossible because they also served alcohol.

Some smaller outlets said they were not willing to go through the hassle of applying for the certification due to the size of their establishment and their limited staff numbers.

One such outlet is the newly-opened Yin’s Sourdough Pizza at Wisma Yeap Chor Ee.

Its owners told Malay Mail Online that they do not plan to apply for any halal certification just yet.

“The outlet is new and it is just a small cafe so we are not going to apply yet,” owner Ooi Seng Keat said, adding that the application process is too complicated.

Like Yin’s, Caffeine Chemistry on Nagore Road is “pork-free,” but it also serves beer and other types of alcohol, which means it would not qualify for halal status.

“We are a pork-free establishment but we don't think we can apply for halal certification because we serve alcohol and we also think the process of applying for it is too tedious and complicated,” owners Kevin Ooi and Wendy Liew said.

For the owners of The Big Fat Hen at Chime Heritage, their establishment is not only “pork-free” but also uses mostly halal ingredients for their food.

But with alcohol on their menu, applying for halal certification may not be an option.

“We use halal meat and products in our kitchen and we did inquire about applying for halal certification but we were told it will be difficult to get because we sell alcohol,” managing director Daryl Felix said.

He added that the restaurant does not want to stop selling alcohol just to get the halal status, noting that many customers there order booze along with their meals.

There are also some outlets here that are currently in the process of applying for their halal certificates and are now known as “pork-free” pending the approval of their applications.

Ahmad Tarmizi Md Din of Mizi Bistro is planning to apply for halal certification for three of his four outlets located across Penang.

“I didn't apply earlier because we sell alcohol but all our food is halal so now I will be applying for three of my outlets except for one that has a liquor licence,” he said.

He is unsure of the application process but he said he believes it will be quite complicated.

Ahmad Tarmizi also said he hopes the state government will help ease the process.

Two days ago, state executive councillor Datuk Abdul Malik Abul Kassim said the state government is encouraging “pork-free” restaurants in the state to apply for halal certification.

He admitted that it was not against the law to put up “pork-free” signs but said it would be easier for the outlets to become halal-certified, which he pointed out is an international standard for food hygiene and handling.

The issue first cropped up last weekend when a domestic trade, co-operatives and consumerism ministry enforcement director said eateries using the signage could be penalised for confusing Muslims.

On Tuesday, minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainuddin reportedly said that his ministry will select a specific definition to avoid any confusion over “pork free” signs at eateries.

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