Cleaner, quieter and much more pleasant

Cleaner, quieter and much more pleasant
Groups of people sitting about on the Read Bridge photographed at Clarke Quay on June 13, 2015. It used to be packed with people drinking in public places on weekend nights, but is quieter now.

For years, Read Bridge in Clarke Quay was a weekend magnet for late-night revellers, filled to the railings with hundreds of young people having drinks on the cheap.

Now, the scene is hardly recognisable, 21/2 months after new laws restricting public consumption of alcohol kicked in.

When The Sunday Times visited after 11pm last Saturday, there were only about 50 people lining the bridge, compared to more than 300 in the past, and most were not drinking.

The few who were did so discreetly, sipping from plain cups or hiding the bottles and cans of alcohol in plastic bags.

At nearby Robertson Quay, gathering places around popular nightclub Zouk were quieter, with far fewer people loitering and drinking.

Both locations also had far less litter, a stark contrast from the past when empty liquor bottles, beer cans and vomit were the bane of cleaners.

Mr Tan Yong Hong, a 64-year-old who picks up cans on the bridge, said he used to be able to collect 10kg worth a night. Now, it is barely half that.

Under the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Act, which came into force on April 1, drinking in public is banned from 10.30pm to 7am. Retail outlets also cannot sell takeaway alcohol during those hours.

The price of being caught drinking is a fine of up to $1,000. Repeat offenders face a fine of up to $2,000, and the possibility of a maximum three months in jail. Shops found selling alcohol during the hours of the ban can be fined up to $10,000.

Residents and retailers The Sunday Times spoke to were pleased with the changed environment.

Businesswoman Jung Jungyoon, who lives at Centennia Suites near Zouk, said the Robertson Quay area is much cleaner and a lot less noisy.

"I used to be bothered by the noise, and the smell of vomit. I could see some people just lying on pavements," said the 34-year-old.

"I'm pretty happy about the atmosphere now, it's a big difference."

A resident of Rivergate condominium, who did not want to be named, said the situation has "definitely improved" though she still spots young people drinking during the prohibited hours.

The alcohol restrictions have benefited clubs in the area, with Zouk saying it has seen a slight increase in alcohol sales during the earlier hours of its opening.

There has also been a marked decrease in rowdiness and drunken behaviour outside, and even inside, the clubs.

Attica's general manager Roberto Gagliardi said: "Clarke Quay's ambience may be a bit down, but there is less disorder... and fewer customers arriving drunk."

Mr Saravana G., manager of wine bar Verre at Robertson Quay, said: "Drinkers would leave rubbish, get drunk and start shouting.

They would also use the toilet in my bar. It was very unpleasant. I had to call the police several times before.

"Now the drinking crowd outside is all but gone."

For non-drinkers, Read Bridge has become a more welcoming place. Musician Helmizar Kamal complained that the place used to be dirty and that it was very hard to find a place to sit.

"Now it's a lot more peaceful and I'll come here more often," said the 25-year-old.

But there are some who miss the "vibrancy" of the past.

A 29-year-old construction engineer, who wanted to be known as Victor, said: "I don't enjoy this area as much now. We can't come here and drink with our friends after work any more."

Account manager Luke Brandon, 24, added: "It's not as fun. We now have to travel to a friend's place in some inconvenient area (to drink), then travel again to a club. We are usually sober by then. It's a bummer, but I don't want to get fined."

This article was first published on June 21, 2015.
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