Little India riot: Big bucks...blues if there's a ban

Little India riot: Big bucks...blues if there's a ban
One of the seven liquor shops in 400m stretch.

Five years ago, Little India had fewer foreign workers - and fewer shops selling liquor, Mr John Yeo, 55, recalls.

"Things were peaceful then." Today there are 30 shops selling alcohol within a 10-minute walk in Little India, based on a count by The New Paper on Tuesday.

Less than 10 such shops existed back then, said Mr Yeo, owner of the 50-year-old Yeo Buan Heng Liquor Shop at Chander Road.

The economics is simple: More customers (mostly foreign workers) means more shops catering to the demand, up to 40 per cent more such outlets in the last two years, he estimated.

Along Chander Road, seven of 23 shops sell alcohol - on a stretch of a mere 400m. Along Race Course Road, 17 of the 38 shops there sell alcohol.

Some shop owners said they sell as much as $6,000 worth of alcohol every Sunday, and up to $1,000 on weekdays.

Foreign workers make up at least 70 per cent of their customers, they said, adding that these workers tend to go for Indian brands like Kingfisher, Knock Out and Haywards 5000 beers and McDowell's whisky.

"Some workers buy one or two cans, some a minimum of five," said a sales assistant who wanted to be known only as Mr Thiru, 27, at Pradeep International Trading at Buffalo Road.

While Scotch whisky brands like Chivas Regal and Johnnie Walker Black Label go for $55 for the 750ml bottle, Indian brands go for $35, said Mr Thiru.

Heineken and Tiger beers are priced from $4, but Indian labels cost $3.50.

Yet, the latter is stronger stuff: Kingfisher and Knock Out beers have 8 per cent alcohol content.

By comparison, both Heineken and Tiger beers contain 5 per cent alcohol. Over at Arasi Trading which sells mainly liquor at Chander Road, owner Sadhasivan Kailasam, 40, said a small number of his customers buy drinks even when they are already drunk.

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