Noise, litter, vomit - it's about time we restrict public drinking

Noise, litter, vomit - it's about time we restrict public drinking

Imagine people sitting around on public pavements, laughing and talking loudly.

Imagine them drinking.

Imagine them vomiting.

Imagine the horrible smells and the mess of glass bottles, cans, cigarette butts and spilt drinks, and the work of some poor cleaner who has to spray down the place thereafter.

That is the reality that residents like me - I live in an apartment near Robertson Quay in the residential area near Zouk - have to deal with on three days every week.

Which is why I am heartily behind the new Bill to restrict liquor consumption, introduced in Parliament yesterday.

Once enacted, the consumption of alcohol in public places like parks, pavements and void decks will not be allowed from 10.30pm to 7am every day.

In line with this, the sale of take-away liquor will also end at 10.30pm.

Problem areas can also be designated as "Liquor Control Zones" where restrictions will be tighter and penalties harsher. Geylang and Little India are the first such zones.

All this will inevitably draw some cries about how "draconian" and "restrictive" it is, but I say it's about time.

Try living with glass bottles, some broken, littering the area when you take a walk in the neighbourhood in the morning.

To be fair, the kids who are topping themselves up with alcohol bought from nearby shops are just out to have a bit of fun.

It's become a bit of a tradition - they don't want to spend too much money inside the club, so they get happy on the cheap stuff first.

They are generally not aggressive to residents or patrons of the nearby hotels.

I remember being young(er) and wanting a drink or three with my mates. So, yeah, on that level, I understand.

It's the scale of the problem that is the nub here: We're not talking about the odd teen milling around. We're talking about multiple groups sitting on the pavement at Robertson Bridge.

Try walking the area on the clubbing nights - Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays - and you have to weave through the groups on Robertson Bridge. They also throng the area outside the Grand Copthorne Hotel and across the bank, on the sidewalks bordering Rivergate condominium.

Oh. True story: I saw a youngster puke into a plastic bag of empty beer cans once. He then nonchalantly tied it up and threw it over the side of the bridge into the Singapore River.

At least he "cleared up", I suppose. Some bin their bottles and trash properly, but there are those who don't.

And where there is booze, there is a certain loquacity. Voices get more animated and louder as the alcohol flows.

They might not be yelling, but sound carries a long way at night.

A neighbourhood sundry store, which sells everything from soap to ice cream, stocks some beer and wine. Once, after it closed for the night, some youngsters took to breaking into the locked fridge to get at the beer.

The lady boss often reminds the patrons to keep it down. She has told me before: "I don't want any trouble and sometimes, they get really loud and residents get angry."

For the record, I don't think it's a matter of the address. It's hard to accept that throngs of people can decide to drink, litter and vomit in any residential estate.

BETTER NOW

The situation improved somewhat after the Member of Parliament for the area, Ms Indranee Rajah, visited in 2011 and proposed a no-alcohol zone in 2012.

There have been stepped-up patrols, but what can anyone do? There is no law against hanging out or drinking in public.

Until this Bill kicks in, that is. The police will have the ability to ask someone to leave a public area and dispose of the alcohol.

Singapore is actually taking a more moderate approach: In New York City, and in the US states of Maryland and Kansas, for instance, there is a complete ban on public alcohol consumption at all times.

Oslo, Perth and Brisbane are among other cities that also take this no-go stance.

Among the moderates are the cities of Prague, Nice and Sydney, where there is a partial restriction at specific times. Singapore will join this list when the Bill is passed.

So, to the chaps who like sitting on the bridge: It's not as if you can't enjoy your time with your mates. There are plenty of bars dotting the area.

This has been happening for years. If partygoers can't rein it in despite the patrols, then it's high time for this Bill to kick in.


This article was first published on January 20, 2015.
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