Wednesday, 18 June 2014

MHA seeks feedback on ways to restrict sale, consumption of alcohol

By Monica Kotwani, Channel NewsAsia, 17 Jun 2014

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Monday (June 16) launched the second phase of its public consultation exercise looking into strengthening measures on liquor sale and consumption at public places.

Member of the public are encouraged to contribute their views on the restriction of public consumption of alcohol and on the shortening of sale hours at retail hours, the ministry said. All views must come in by July 31.



Specifically, the MHA is asking the public for its views regarding the different models and practices to restrict public consumption of alcohol. The models are:
- Partial Restriction with Selective Enforcement. Targeted restriction with selective enforcement against people who create a nuisance when consuming alcohol.
- Partial Restriction by Place. Targeted restriction to be imposed at problematic hotspots where large groups of people often congregate and drink alcohol.
- Partial Restriction by Time. Targeted restriction by prohibiting public consumption of alcohol late at night.
- Wider Restriction. This model effectively reduces public consumption of alcohol, as the restriction is applied in all places and at all times.
The other area the ministry is looking for feedback is on the possible options it can adopt to shorten sale hours of alcohol at retail outlets for off-premise consumption.

The three options are:
- End retail sale of alcohol by 2am in entertainment districts
- End retail sale of alcohol by 12am in residential areas
- End retail sale of alcohol earlier (for example, 9pm) in areas where people tend to congregate and consume alcohol in public places
All feedback can be made via the REACH website or submitted to reach@reach.gov.sg. The public feedback, as well as any findings and recommendations from the Committee of Inquiry looking into the Little India riot, will be included in the ministry's review and formulation of the full set of liquor control measures, the MHA said.

"Even with the restriction on public consumption, there may still be some who do not abide by the rules and continue to create nuisance. To better control the situation, the supply of alcohol can be restricted by ending its retail sale for off-premise consumption at an earlier time," the MHA stated.

In the first phase of the public consultation, held between October and December last year, about 85 per cent of respondents expressed support for the proposal to designate no-alcohol zones in public places, while more than 75 per cent supported shortening retail sale hours of alcohol for off-premise consumption.

INDUSTRY OPINIONS

Some people Channel NewsAsia spoke to said the shortening of alcohol sale hours for retail stores should be even more restrictive, which could also clamp down on binge-drinking.

"There's no supervision, no accountability, there's nothing to take care of that,” said Michael Ma, CEO of the IndoChine Group. “Once it's passed out of the counter, that job is done for their premises, whereas for us, we do get penalties and we do get demerit points if there are a lot of problems."

But many seemed to lean towards restricting public consumption in hotspots.

"Restrictions by place would be more suitable, because for certain places, there are a lot of people gathered together to drink and create more nuisance when they get drunk. But for residential areas, I don't think so," said Hong Poh Hin, chairman for Foochow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants Association. 





Most back proposals for alcohol restrictions
8 in 10 want ban on public drinking and restricted hours for alcohol sales
By Feng Zengkun, The Straits Times, 17 Jun 2014

EIGHT in 10 people support a proposed ban on the drinking of alcohol in some public places, especially near MRT stations and at playgrounds and void decks.

About the same proportion also want the selling of alcohol in shops to be stopped after a certain time, with more restricted hours in residential areas.

These were the findings of a survey done by government feedback portal REACH and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in the wake of concerns over the public consumption of alcohol.

MHA did not provide absolute figures for the responses to the survey, which was conducted between Oct 29 and Dec 31 last year.

But it said yesterday that respondents generally preferred retail shops to stop selling take- away alcohol by midnight in residential areas, and by 2am in entertainment districts.

The agencies had asked people to comment on proposals to limit alcohol drinking in public and alcohol sales, as part of a review to improve public safety and reduce the nuisance of people gathering and drinking alcohol in public places.

MPs and residents had raised concerns about the problems posed by public drinking in recent years, said MHA last year.

The sale and consumption of alcohol in Little India, for example, has been restricted since a riot there last December damaged 23 emergency vehicles and injured 54 responding officers.

MHA is now seeking people's views on methods used in some other countries to limit the public drinking of alcohol.

These have been compiled at www.reach.gov.sg under the public consultations section, and the deadline for feedback is July 31.

The views - and the findings and recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry looking into the riot, to be submitted this month - will be used to craft longer-term measures for Singapore.

In Britain, police can require people to give up open containers of alcohol in some areas, though people are generally allowed to drink from them, said MHA.

"However, this is a more reactive approach and the nuisance would have been caused before intervention takes place," it said.

Other places like New South Wales in Australia have alcohol- free zones, while in the United States, public drinking is almost universally banned.

Ms Anisah Mohamed, 35, an assistant administrative manager, suggested a ban on public alcohol drinking in residential neighbourhoods after 10pm.

"It would be like the noise pollution laws that prevent construction works from disturbing people after a certain time," she said.

But a worker at a Serangoon 7-11 convenience store said a blanket ban on public alcohol drinking, such as at all void decks, may be too drastic. "Sometimes on the weekends, we have friends who buy alcohol and gather at the nearby void deck to chat," said the employee who declined to be named.

"They could go to a hawker centre instead, but they usually don't disturb anybody, so I don't see what's the harm."



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