ALFRESCO dining on parking lots, as headlined in Streets last week is a classic chicken-and-egg situation.
Despite action by local authorities on business operators including restaurants, this illegal hogging of road space continues as there are patrons who prefer to have their meals alfresco.
What is convenient to patrons as they dine outdoors is a bane to motorists and pedestrians. From the initial hogging of two or three parking lots in front of the restaurants, more bays eventually get taken up.
Eateries are allowed to place their chairs and tables on the pedestrian walkways if they obtain permits for each of the tables.
Others like motor workshops, however, need to pay to have the parking lots in front of their shops reserved for them.
The problem is when the premises "reserve" the bay with any obstruction, including cones, without approval from the authorities, they do not realise the consequences of their actions.
In an already congested neighbourhood, tables and chairs on parking bays add to the woes of visitors to the area.
Ironically, premises that place tables and chairs on parking bays appear to draw more customers.
Business gets even better if huge projector screens are set up to show football matches aired on satellite TV.
Some people prefer to dine outdoors because dining within the premises of the restaurant can be stuffy.
However, this should not be the case because a restaurant should be made conducive enough to allow diners to have their meals in.
And to please their customers, many operators also resort to placing tables in front of their premises.
On the other hand, restaurant operators would probably not place tables and chairs outdoors if their customers did not ask for it.
Likewise, if the operators did not place the tables and chairs outside, diners would have no choice but dine inside the restaurant.
When I came to this city to further my studies, I had to get used to the sight of tables and chairs placed on pedestrian walkways.
I was not keen on dining alfresco because I was wary of eavesdroppers listening in onto what I was saying when they walked past.
I was also conscious if I spoke or laughed too loudly.
However, I found out that it was the "in-thing" for restaurant operators to place tables and chairs on parking lots to cater to those who preferred to dine alfresco, enjoying their food with cars parked next to where they sat.
It was also not surprising to see the many seats inside the restaurants empty.
Dining alfresco is not new. Back in my kampung, alfresco dining is restricted to the stalls, which are a common sight if you drive along from Sungai Mati towards Muar town.
Once you enter town, or Bandar Maharani, you don't see tables and chairs in front of the restaurants or in parking lots there.
Once my siblings and I had to wait for about an hour to have our breakfast at our favourite satay outlet in Muar because the restaurant was full and the operator did not place additional tables and chairs along the shop's pavement.
Like others, we waited patiently for others to finish their breakfast before getting our seat at one of the tables.
One man who tried to "jump the queue" was promptly told that we were there first and if he wanted to have his breakfast, he would have to wait in line, too.
Impatience gets you no where in a small town, except unwanted stares from other patrons.
You also can't expect the restaurant staff to help you as they could also be busy attending to other customers.
The only place where I think you can still find tables and chairs on parking lots at night in Muar is the open space just next to the Bentayan express bus station.
Here the stalls are arranged side by side and it is impossible for motorists to enter as the whole area is taken up by tables and chairs.
But then, motorists could park at the bus terminal area because there are not many buses using the parking space there.