Revellers still drinking after liquor law kicked in

Revellers still drinking after liquor law kicked in
The scene at Clarke Quay’s Read Bridge, where at least 200 people – mostly tourists and expatriates – were drinking in the early hours of yesterday morning after the new law had come into force.

IT SEEMS as if the curbs on consuming alcohol in public places, which kicked in yesterday, may take some getting used to.

Scores of revellers were still seen knocking back beers on Read Bridge at Clarke Quay past midnight early yesterday morning, even after the new law had come into force.

Under the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Act, the drinking of alcohol is not allowed in all public places from 10.30pm to 7am. Retail outlets such as convenience stores or supermarkets are also barred from selling takeaway alcohol during the same hours. Stricter rules apply in Geylang and Little India, as they are designated Liquor Control Zones.

At least 200 people - mostly tourists and expatriates - were seen drinking at Clarke Quay's Read Bridge in the early hours of April 1, even though posters about the regulations were put up on the bridge's lamp posts.

Some said they were not aware of the rules, while others said they did not know the restrictions took effect immediately.

Mongolian tourist Batbold G., 32, said: "I didn't know about the rules, and I'll continue to drink since there are so many people here. I'm leaving Singapore and I want to enjoy myself first.

Anyone drinking illegally can be fined up to $1,000 and repeat offenders may be fined up to $2,000 and jailed for up to three months. A shop selling alcohol after the permitted hours could be fined up to $10,000.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said on Tuesday that the police will take a "calibrated and even- handed" approach when it comes to enforcing the law.

A 43-year-old British expatriate who did not want to be named said he did not know the restriction took effect immediately.

He said: "I will finish it up then. But I believe 99.9 per cent of people don't go out and create trouble when they drink, so why would you legislate against the majority?"

Student Rahul R., 21, who comes from India, also said he would quickly finish up his drink when told of the new law.

"It is the law and we have to follow it," he added.

"But I am a little upset. This is a happening place, and it will not be like this anymore."

Others questioned if the restrictions were necessary.

Mr Blake Osborne, 28, a tourist from Britain who has been to Singapore five times, said he drinks at the bridge every time he visits.

He added that there was "no issue" there and it was safe.

"This is something I am very fond of and enjoy... This should still be allowed here," he said.

Meanwhile, staff at shops like 7-Eleven and Cheers at Clarke Quay said they knew about the ban and would stop selling alcohol by midnight.

At 12am, they were seen turning away customers who offered to pay twice the price.

At Robertson Bridge, things were quieter with no one drinking in its vicinity.

A 10-minute walk from popular nightclub Zouk, the area is typically packed with young party-goers on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights when more clubs are open.

Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng, who had called the law "overly restrictive", told The Straits Times: "It seems unclear as to the time it takes effect and it can be a little confusing.

"I don't think the police went around after midnight on April 1 to catch people flouting this new law. But over the next few days, I believe it'll be quite clear and the police should be ready to enforce it, or at least tell people it's not right."

Frequently asked questions

THE Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Act came into force yesterday, and bans drinking in public places from 10.30pm to 7am. Here are some frequently asked questions about the new law:

What is a public place?

A public place is where a person has free access to, such as Housing Board void decks, parks or beaches. Condominiums and chalets are considered private places.

Is there any exception to the law?

You can continue to drink beyond the restricted hours if you have a valid permit from the National Parks Board to hold a barbecue at a park. But you must drink in the immediate vicinity of the barbecue pit, and can drink only during the duration of the permit, which is valid from 12pm on the day of the permit to 4am the following day.

Drinking after 10.30pm is also allowed at government or statutory board events held for a public purpose, though it is understood that such events typically do not end after 10.30pm.

How about at other events?

Event organisers may apply for a "consumption permit" from the police to allow drinking beyond the restricted hours.

Does it mean duty-free shops are not allowed to sell alcohol from 10.30pm?

Yes, duty-free shops are considered retail shops, but they may apply for an extension of retail sale hours from the police.

What will the police consider in granting a retail shop an extension?

Police will consider the propensity for public disorder and disamenities in the area, and the measures that licensees are prepared to put in place to reduce drinking-related problems.

How about at pubs or restaurants or coffee shops?

People can continue to drink at these licensed premises, which can sell alcohol according to their licences.

This article was first published on Apr 2, 2015.
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