Besides being a place to watch live football telecasts, Sports Kopitiam offers board games and is located in the syariah-compliant De Palma Hotel Ampang
WHEN Barcelona defeated Manchester United in the final of the UEFA Champions League championship in the wee hours of May 28, Sports Kopitiam in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, was only two days old.
Just after midnight, patrons began to stream into this outlet, even though there were larger crowds at other cafes or mamak restaurants that put up big screens for the football fans to watch the game.
However the atmosphere at Sports Kopitiam was still ''electrifying''.
While waiting for the kick-off, the patrons ordered food and beverages that came in the form, among others, of toasts and coffee in antique porcelain cups.
The chairs and tables also have the antique look.
A unique feature is that Sports Kopitiam is located in a hotel -- the De Palma Hotel Ampang.
(A kopitiam or kopi tiam is a traditional breakfast and coffee shop found in Malaysia and Singapore. The term originated from the Malay word for coffee and the Hokkien dialect for shop).
As the name suggests, the kopitiam offers various board games like chess, chequers, caroms, scrabble and congkak. At one corner, the board for darts, hangs.
For comfort, the patrons can adjourn to several sofas located at a corner of the kopitiam where a smaller television screen is available.
This writer and her children played chess and scrabble while waiting for the game to start and also during halftime. The couple that sat nearby chose congkak while several others played darts.
”Soon there will be tables for pool and football,” said Datuk Mohd Ilyas Zainal Abidin, the group general manager of De Palma Hotel during the soft launch of the kopitiam recently.
Why picked this concept? This writer had asked Mohd Ilyas.
To this question, he said the kopitiam concept is getting popular in the Klang Valley and sports, particularly football, draw in the crowds.
"So I provide that for all (patrons), while sipping coffee, they can play various games or simply watch the live telecasts," he said.
The kopitiam even named several of its beverages according to popular sporting terms like "The Perfect Strike", "Smack Down", "Red Card", "Hole in One" and "Pit Stop".
He plans to open this facility to any office sports clubs that wish to organise indoor games carnival during either the weekdays or weekend.
"We are offering something different to these sports clubs and guests of De Palma (Hotel)," he said.
HOTEL WITH A DIFFERENCE
The De Palma Hotel Ampang is indeed a hotel with a difference.
It is under the De Palma Group of Hotels, fully owned by the Selangor Economic Development Corporation and managed by Biztel Sdn Bhd.
The hotel woos guests, particularly the Muslims, who place emphasis on halal food, via the concept of moving towards syariah compliance. De Palma Hotel Ampang envisages transforming the hotel service and product in conformity with specification in line with syariah standard.
For wedding functions, De Palma Hotel Ampang offers several menus with special names like ''Sakinah'' (peace), ''Mawaddah'' (relaxation) and ''Firdaus'' (paradise) while packages for conferences, meetings and seminars are named among others ''Marhabah'' (welcome), ''Zamrud'' (emerald), Fairuz (precious stone), Raudah (garden of paradise).
For the conference packages, zam zam water will be offered to the participants on the first day of the event while in the wedding packages, guests at the main table would enjoy the same treatment.
In October last year, the De Palma Hotel Ampang became the first hotel in Malaysia to be given the nod to hold the Friday prayers at its surau that now receives 1,000 people each week.
Surau Nurul Nikmah, located at the hotel's third floor had won the "Best Surau award in the hotel industry" given by the Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association.
The surau hosted tazkirah, tarawih and Qiamullail functions during the fasting month of Ramadan.
Those who come to perform the prayers are workers from offices, as well staff of foreign embassies located nearby, tourists, hospital staff, students and residents who live in the housing estate in the hotel's vicinity. Most of them usually walk to the surau, said Mohd Ilyas.
For their convenience, De Palma provides set lunch at RM9.90 per pax.
This had prompted a blogger to comment that he was surprised on the package offered, as after performing the Friday prayers he can enjoy a meal of chicken rice plus a syrup drink at only RM9.90!.
"Where can you find in the world, a hotel that performs the Friday prayers!", he said.
SYARIAH COMPLIANCE FEATURES
Mohd Ilyas said by emphasising on features that go along with syariah compliance, the hotel has managed to attract many Muslim patrons particularly those from Middle East who made up 40 per cent of its guests.
"Recently we received guests from Iran, all of them are mufti, and they are happy to gather here and no need for them to move out in order to perform the five daily prayers," he said.
De Palma Hotel Ampang employs three full-time imam for the Nurul Nikmah surau. They handle various religious programmes at the hotel including tazkirah during lunch time for twice a month, free Quran-reading classes and also tahlil functions.
"We are prepared to hold tahlil functions for the minimum of 10 people, at RM15 each. I do not know of any other place that offers such a package for only 10 pax," said Mohd Ilyas.
Such facilities are part of De Palma Hotel Ampang''s social obligations, he said.
PLACE TO PERFORM RELIGIOUS OBLIGATIONS
Mohd Ilyas said he was glad to hear that people no longer viewed hotels like De Palma Hotel Ampang as "disreputable" premises.
The notion that working in hotels inhibits the performance of religious duties no longer carry water, he said.
"I emphasise on working while performing the ibadah, and even on Friday the women staff are able to hear the prayer sermons via loudspeakers installed at several corners (of the hotel),” he said.
Mohd Ilyas said the hotel did not experience security hassles when Muslims congregate at the surau to perform their daily prayers and other religious obligations.
Other guests also did not object to the no sale of liquor in the hotel, he said.
The halal status of food served at the De Palma Hotel Ampang had elicited confidence from the Muslim guests and respect from their non-Muslim counterparts.
Sports Kopitiam is no exception to this thumbs up sign. — Bernama