Fewer rowdy scenes with liquor curbs

Fewer rowdy scenes with liquor curbs
People drinking on the Read Bridge in Clarke Quay.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Since the ban on late-night drinking in public came into force in April, nearly 470 people have been issued advisories for flouting the rules.

Another five people were arrested after refusing to stop drinking despite being told to do so by police. Two were eventually given stern warnings while cases against the rest are under investigation.

Two retailers also landed in trouble for selling alcohol after 10.30pm and are now being investigated.

The figures were revealed by police yesterday, when Second Minister for Home Affairs S. Iswaran, who is also an MP for West Coast GRC, conducted a night walkabout in Jurong West, where there had been complaints of public drinking.

Since the restrictions were implemented, "the living environment has significantly improved", said Mr Iswaran, who spent last night meeting alcohol retailers, coffee shop owners and residents. "What we have observed and what the police officers who are here on the ground tell us is that the disamenities and the general complaints have subsided significantly."

Under the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Act, which was passed in Parliament in January, drinking in public is banned from 10.30pm to 7am. During the period, retail outlets are also not allowed to sell takeaway alcohol.

Those caught drinking can be fined up to $1,000, with repeat offenders risking penalties of up to $2,000 and three months in jail. Retail outlets, including convenience stores and supermarkets, found selling alcohol during the hours of the ban can be fined up to $10,000.

Stricter controls apply in Little India and Geylang, where takeaway alcohol sales are barred from 7pm on weekends, the eve of public holidays and holidays .

Retailers have complained about taking a hit to their alcohol sales, but Mr Iswaran said "it's a trade-off that we've had to make". "Overall it has been a very positive impact with minimal disruption, and for most people, life goes on," he said.

The Act is meant to tackle troublemakers and serious alcohol-related offences, with Mr Iswaran revealing in January that over the last three years, there was on average one rioting incident and two cases of serious hurt that involved liquor each week.

While some complained about the curbs, it has helped clean up popular drinking spots such as Clarke Quay. When The Sunday Times visited the area last month, empty liquor bottles, beer cans and vomit, which used to be a common sight in the morning, were all but gone.

Police said the message is getting through. They issued 60 per cent fewer advisories last month, compared with May.

"Some people were initially unaware of the changes, so we would take a soft approach and educate them," said Staff Sergeant Teo Chang Meng, who patrols the Jurong West area. The 24-year-old officer said he used to attend to two to three drinking-related incidents a week. He would also face resistance when telling drinkers to keep it down. Since April, he has not had to attend to a single case after 10.30pm, he said.

Jurong West resident Chong Kim, 62, who has been living there for more than 20 years, said some people used to drink till 2am, leaving litter and urine at the void decks. The school operations manager said he has seen fewer such incidents since the new legislation kicked in.


This article was first published on July 12, 2015.
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