No more dining by the river's edge under new URA guidelines

Romantic meals right at the edge of the Singapore River will soon become a thing of the past at Robertson Quay and Clarke Quay, when new rules on outdoor refreshment areas kick in this week.

Under new guidelines from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), diners' tables cannot be placed right by the riverside. The aim, it said, is to "free up the riverfront for public access".

The new rules are effective immediately, but the URA said it would give operators "sufficient time" to clear the riverside tables.

Outdoor tables on the side of the walkway away from the river can stay, and restaurants can also apply to develop second-storey extensions from buildings to create dining areas there.

A spokesman for the URA told The Straits Times that it is working with affected stakeholders on the timeline "to ensure minimal disruption to business operations".

Establishments at Boat Quay will not be affected, although the situation there is also being reviewed.

The move follows a two-year review of outdoor refreshment areas that sought to enhance visitors' experience along the river.

Other key changes in the revised guidelines include the elimination of riverside outdoor kiosks - small, free-standing structures such as newspaper stands.

The guidelines were drawn up by the URA in 1999 "to enliven the riverfront".

For many years, the eateries and drinking holes around Riverside Point in Clarke Quay have boosted business by placing tables right by the river in good weather.

Some fear the new rules will hit their profits. About 10 per cent of microbrewery restaurant Brewerkz's 786 seats and more than a fifth of Mexican eatery Cafe Iguana's 248 seats are placed in these areas.

"If we are not allowed to put any tables along the river, there will definitely be a reduction in the number of customers and revenue," said a spokesman for both restaurants, who noted that they expect sales to drop by about $20,000 to $40,000 a month for each outlet.

The spokesman also questioned the decision to leave Boat Quay untouched, saying that the rules did not seem to be "evenly applied".

The URA, however, said it took a "site-specific approach" to its urban design and is now looking at how to improve Boat Quay's promenade and outdoor dining structures.

The Straits Times understands that Singapore River One, which represents businesses in the area, met URA officials yesterday to discuss the new rules.

When contacted, Singapore River One executive director Ty Tabing would only say that he hoped the URA would give affected stakeholders in Robertson Quay and Clarke Quay "a couple of months" to respond to the revised guidelines.

"Some businesses will be impacted in the short term and will likely make modifications to accommodate this policy, but the area will be improved in the long run," he said.

The general manager of Riverview Hotel in Robertson Quay, Mr Andreas Koch, agreed. "Tables are moveable and the businesses will possibly be able to find ways to keep the same number of tables," he said.

He added that the new rules would not affect his hotel, which does not have any of these outdoor dining areas. But, he said, they would improve his guests' experience.

He said: "It will make a huge difference to visitors and passers-by who want to enjoy the river, unobstructed."