SINGAPORE - Breweries have been asked to withdraw their beer promoters from the 107 markets and hawker centres managed by the National Environment Agency (NEA), The Straits Times understands.
Promoters have stopped working at hawker centres for about two weeks.
Letters were sent out to hawker drink stall operators earlier this month reminding them of the ban.
In a letter seen by The Straits Times, Ms Yew Meng Yet, assistant director (tenancy management) of NEA's hawker centres division, said NEA does not allow beer promoters at hawker centres as this could lead to touting amongst the various drink stalls.
She reiterated that non-Singaporeans are also not allowed to operate or assist at hawker stalls.
In response to queries, the NEA said it does not allow any beer promotion in hawker centres as beer promoters are not stallholders or registered stall assistants.
Furthermore, said its spokesman, "stallholders or registered stall assistants are also not allowed to carry out beer promotion nor engage beer promoters as such activities may give rise to disamenities, such as touting and possible harassment of patrons when promoters compete for business."
The NEA spokesman noted: "Hawker centres are essential social infrastructure and important communal spaces - they provide a family friendly, clean and hygienic environment for patrons and families to enjoy good food at affordable prices."
Hawkers said promoters are paid about $1,000 a month by breweries and earn a commission of five cents to 10 cents a bottle. They also earn tips, which can average $100 a night. There are probably about 600 beer promoters here, with Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) Singapore hiring most of them. It declined comment.
But beer wholesaler Lee Hong Kiat, who supplies APB beers such as Tiger and Heineken to 10 hawker centres, said the withdrawal has led to an estimated 25 per cent fall in sales for his firm.
Industry players said it was the first time they had seen such a major clampdown.
Drink stall owners had mixed reactions to NEA's move but most said business had been affected since the beer promoters stopped working. Six stallholders said beer sales have as much as halved since the promoters left about two weeks ago.
One stall helper in Chinatown said the move had dampened beer sales by 80 per cent.
"We used to sell five to six cartons of beer a day but now we sell less than one carton a day," said 55-year-old Madam Huang Yan Chu. "I guess people like beer girls pouring drinks for them."
Another drinks stall owner in his 50s who only wanted to be known as Mr Tang said that beer sales have dropped 25 to 30 per cent since they left.
"With the beer girls around, they help us to take the beer to customers. Without them, we have to do it ourselves or customers have to self-service," he said. "If you want to stop them from touting then there should be some guidelines. Being a beer girl is not an easy job."
Patron Jeffrey Goh, 65, has also noticed fewer customers since the beer promoters left but supports the move to ban them from hawker centres.
"It's more peaceful here without them. Sometimes they will get into arguments among themselves. They are quite persistent and will keep asking us to drink more. For instance, they will say "Support me, support me. Buy more beer," he said.
"Of course not all beer girls are like that but there are bound to be some who will spoil the impression that people have of them."
Another patron, however, said he is quite surprised that beer promoters are no longer allowed in hawker centres.
"They're just here to provide a service," said Mr Daniel Tan, 55, who works in the legal profession. "They open the beer bottle and pour alcohol for you or ask if you would like to buy more beer. They are decent people."
Retiree S.G. Lee, 74, said he will miss the promoters. "We are retirees. Honestly, it's nice to have someone to chat with."
Beer promoter Alice Tan, 31, who works at two coffee shops in Toa Payoh, said she earns $35 for a five-hour shift and a five-cent commission for each bottle sold. "It can be quite stressful, especially if there is more than one promoter at a coffee shop."
Meanwhile, Lubritrade, which brews Dester beer, will re-deploy its promoters from hawker centres to coffee shops.
This article was first published on May 19, 2015.
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