If you drink, don't walk

If you walk along Serangoon Road this weekend and drink from a can of beer, you will be breaking the law.

This is because of the two-day alcohol ban that is being put in place following last Sunday's riot.

The police said during a media briefing last evening that the ban prohibits the sale and consumption of alcohol in the Little India area.

They will also be enforcing the Public Order (Preservation) Act (POPA), which means that no one can be seen consuming alcohol in public in Little India.

This means they can confiscate the alcohol, and anyone behaving in a drunk or disorderly manner may be arrested under the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act.

Those found guilty of public drunkenness can be fined up to $1,000 and jailed for up to a month. Repeat offenders face a higher penalty.

Even if you hold a can of beer and do not drink from it, you might be asked where you got it from, the police said.

The ban comes after Singapore's first riot in nearly 50 years. So far, 31 men have been charged with rioting.

BIG BAN

The temporary alcohol ban will start from 6am on Saturday and last till 6am on Monday, covering a wide area bounded by Dorset Road, Beatty Road, Jalan Besar and Mackenzie Road.

This will include restaurants, coffee shops, bars, liquor stores and even hostels and hotels, all of which hold about 374 liquor licences in the area.

Locals who go to bars in the Little India area say this has put a dampener on their weekend plans.

Writer Jo-ann Huang, 30, who frequents Zsofi Tapas Bar on Dunlop Street, told The New Paper that the ban seems overly harsh.

"It is understandable if they ban liquor shops and mini-marts from selling alcohol, since that's where foreign workers usually get their beer from. But to include restaurants and bars that cater to locals, it's like a bit too much."

This was echoed by Muddy Murphy Holdings customer service manager Declan O'Donnell.

The company manages four bars, which include the Prince of Wales Backpacker Pub, also on Dunlop Street.

"Foreign workers, who they are targeting, wouldn't walk into our bar because the price of beer is slightly higher, and they don't come in," he said.

"I think (the authorities) are coming down too hard, especially for places like ourselves where (foreign workers) don't come."

Mr O'Donnell said the bar has re-directed its regular customers to its other bars and part-time staff have been given the day off.

But they cannot shut the bar because it also serves as a reception counter for the hostel above.

On the other side of the area, shops that cater to the workers seemed to have been resigned to their fates.

Mr John Yeo from Yeo Buan Heng Liquor Shop at Chander Road said business has been sluggish, having fallen about 80 per cent.

"This Sunday will be the worst. I don't know what to sell. Coke? I hope the ban is only temporary."

BUS COMPANIES

At the same time, 25 private bus services taking foreign workers from their dormitories to Little India will also cease this weekend.

As for the companies providing bus services to foreign workers, at least one bus association is glad the services are only being stopped for a week.

The chairman of the Singapore School & Private Hire Bus Owners' Association, Mr Neo Tian Beng, told The New Paper that he is trying to be optimistic about it.

He said that he met the Land Transport Authority, which asked for the association's feedback on the matter, on Monday.

"I told them we could persuade our members to continue driving, if they wanted to allow us. Yes, some were scared but we told them to just be professional and not get into arguments," said Mr Neo.

"But since the authorities have decided, we can only wait and hope it's temporary."

Mr Neo said that each driver would probably lose $200 in earnings from the stoppage this weekend.


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