Wednesday 21 January 2015

Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill: Govt moves to ban alcohol sale, public drinking after 10.30pm

* New alcohol laws passed in Parliament on 30 Jan 2015; drinking in public places banned from 10.30pm to 7am

Bill proposes that rules apply nation-wide, but event organisers can apply for exemptions for specific events
By Malminderjit Singh, The Business Times, 20 Jan 2015

A BILL introduced in parliament on Monday proposed a nation-wide ban on the sale and public consumption of alcohol between 10.30pm and 7am.

This draft law also contains provisions that will put designated areas in Little India and Geylang under stricter regulations than elsewhere in the matters of the public sale and consumption of alcohol.

The proposed island-wide ban on the public consumption of alcohol is aligned with the closing time of most businesses in residential areas, and the time at which most community and grassroots events end.

The proposed restriction will apply to all public places in Singapore for clarity of compliance and enforcement; it will also minimise "displacement problems", that is, the practice of people migrating to another area to continue drinking.

Organisers of events held in public places may, however, apply for a permit for exceptions to these restrictions for a specific place and time; extension of retail sale hours for take-away liquor beyond 10.30pm may be granted on a case-by-case basis.

Members of the public may, however continue to consume liquor at home during the restricted hours, and at approved events and within licensed premises such as restaurants, coffee shops or bars, in accordance with the hours stipulated in their permits or licences.

The Bill proposes to give the police the power to intervene early and take necessary action to preserve public order and and to keep away disamenities arising from public drunkenness. In other words, the police will have the clout to direct drunk individuals creating annoyance to leave the public place and to dispose of their liquor.

The Ministry of Home Affairs said that in developing this proposed legislation, it had studied liquor-control measures in cities in Australia, the US and the UK. It noted that many of these cities have, for some time already, enforced restrictions on retail sale for take-away liquor and the consumption of liquor in public places, and that their laws were significantly more restrictive than those proposed in this Bill.

The government may also designate an area as a Liquor Control Zone if there is significant risk of public disorder associated with excessive consumption of liquor. Stricter restrictions on the retail sale hours of take-away liquor and the consumption of liquor in public places in such zones, substantially similar to those applied in Little India under the Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Act, will be enforced in these zones.

Liquor-related offences committed within such a zone will result in an enhanced penalty 1 1/2 times that in non-designated areas. Police may also bar persons from being in a Liquor Control Zone for a specified period of time if they are suspected of committing or having committed liquor-related offences such as consuming liquor in a public place during the restricted hours and being drunk there.

Based on the police's current operational assessment, specified areas in Little India and Geylang will be designated Liquor Control Zones.

Existing legal provisions related to public drunkenness will be transferred from current laws such as the Penal Code and the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act to the new legislation.

Liquor-licensing provisions will also be transferred from the Customs Act to the new legislation.

The Minister of Home Affairs will appoint a Licensing Officer to make regulatory decisions, and a Liquor Appeal Board will hear appeals against regulatory decisions.

Penalties for licensing-related offences will be enhanced as the police will be empowered to temporarily close licensed premises, issue directions to owners of premises or suspend their licences if the continued operation of the premises poses a significant threat to public safety or if severe offences involving violence or public disorder have been committed on the premises.

The Bill will be debated in parliament on its second reading at a subsequent date.


Police to take measured response to illegal drinking
No further action if those caught after 10.30pm dispose of drink when told
By Lim Yi Han, The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2015

PROPOSED measures to end public drinking after 10.30pm will allow police to take a "more calibrated approach" to nuisance drinking, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said yesterday.

Even as Monday's introduction of the new Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill generated heated debate in online forums over its merits, MHA made it clear that those caught drinking during restricted hours will face no further action if they dispose of the alcohol when told to.

Under the Bill, people will not be allowed to drink in public places between 10.30pm and 7am. Retail shops will also have to stop selling alcohol after 10.30pm.

MHA yesterday laid out how police would respond to incidents under the new provisions if they become law. Police will, in the first instance, request that the person dispose of the liquor, a spokesman said. "His particulars will also be taken down. If there is public annoyance, the Bill has a provision that allows the police to advise the person to move on, and leave the place. If he complies, no further action will be taken."

But if the person ignores the advice or is a repeat offender, the police may consider tougher action, such as issuing a composition fine or even arrest, the spokesman said. A first-time offence will carry a fine of up to $1,000, while repeat offenders could be fined a maximum of $2,000 and may face a jail term of up to three months.

Those who are disorderly or pose a threat to public order and safety may also be arrested.

Mr Edwin Tong, deputy chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, welcomed the measured approach. "This is not a situation whereby at 10.31pm, the police go out and arrest people," the MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC said. "The idea is to curb unruly drinking in the streets. I hope this (the response by MHA) will give some comfort to people."

Many have hit out at the proposed restrictions, calling them draconian and a "knee-jerk reaction" to the Little India riot on Dec 8, 2013. But others defended the Bill, saying it was a response to longstanding problems of noise and littering, and even fighting, caused by public drinking, including in places frequented by young locals, such as Clarke Quay.

They pointed out that other developed cities have similar regulations, some of which are even stricter, citing places such as Sydney and New York.

There was, however, confusion over the proposed measures, for instance, what counts as a public place. Mr Tong said MHA has to educate the public on the details of the Bill if it is passed. "There should also be a period where the authorities apply a softer touch and raise public awareness, instead of clamping down overnight just because it has become law."

Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean last night posted pictures on his Facebook page of him visiting a coffee shop at Block 435 in Hougang with MP Gan Thiam Poh, and gave the assurance that the proposed laws would not impact places licensed to serve alcohol after 10.30pm.

He wrote: "Uncle you can continue enjoying your beer at the coffee shop as before."

Alcohol curbs tough but necessary, say MPs
Many people back Bill, but others frown on clampdown on personal freedom
By Amir Hussain, The Straits Times, 20 Jan 2015

PROPOSED measures to curb public drinking and the sale of alcohol may be tough, but they are necessary, said Members of Parliament yesterday.

Slightly more than half of the 40 people The Straits Times polled also supported the Bill, believing it will help to reduce public order issues in public spaces, such as around neighbourhood 7-Eleven stores.

But others argued that it was an unnecessary clampdown on personal freedom and could even create illegal channels to buy alcohol after 10.30pm.

Ms Denise Phua (Moulmein-Kallang GRC) said she was satisfied the proposed Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill, which was introduced in Parliament yesterday, calls for a partial ban on public drinking and not a total ban, unlike in some other cities.

In New York, for instance, it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol while on a public sidewalk, on the road or in a park.

The new measures being planned ban drinking in public places here between 10.30pm and 7am. They also forbid retail shops from selling liquor from 10.30pm. Geylang and Little India will be designated Liquor Control Zones and have stricter rules.

Ms Phua, whose Kampong Glam ward covers the Little India area, said: "I am satisfied that MHA (Ministry of Home Affairs) took a calibrated and tiered approach, with stricter measures for higher-risk areas such as Little India and ring-fencing (of) residential common areas such as void decks and corridors.

"The majority of my residents in Little India will be pleased. They had given feedback on their satisfaction with the existing temporary liquor restrictions implemented over the (past) year there. The provisions have substantially improved their living environment and sense of security."

In the wake of the Little India riot on Dec 8, 2013, temporary measures were put in place in the area to clamp down on public drinking and alcohol sales over weekends and public holidays.

Ms Tin Pei Ling (Marine Parade GRC), who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, said that simply designating certain areas for alcohol curbs would not work.

"An islandwide ban may be somewhat blunt, but I think it is necessary. This is because if the measures apply only to certain areas, drinkers will simply be displaced to other areas," she told The Straits Times.

Mr Hri Kumar Nair (Bishan- Toa Payoh GRC), who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, said: "For residents, one of their main complaints is the noise created by people who drink late at the void decks, and there is currently no effective way to deal with that issue. We are dealing with people's welfare here."

Several of the residents whom The Straits Times spoke to shared similar views.

Manager Jes Kiran, 39, said: "I think this will actually create less nuisance, especially near 7-Eleven stores, where you find groups of people who buy alcohol and sit all around drinking and littering and there is rowdy behaviour."

Mr Muhammad Zahid, 35, a process technician, said people sometimes create a nuisance and even fight outside the 7-Eleven outlet near his block in Woodlands. Some also sleep at the void deck after drinking too much.

He hopes the proposed new measures will reduce these issues.

Property manager James Lim, 49, however, did not think the proposed measures were fair.

"After a hard day's work, people should be able to sit down and catch up (over drinks) wherever they want," he said.

Student Zhang Zhihong, 20, said: "There will always be demand for alcohol after 10.30pm. When you restrict the supply, won't there be a black market? Not everyone will pay for alcohol in clubs."

Mr Lim Kim Seng, 42, who works in sales, said the 10.30pm cut-off was too early and suggested that 11.59pm would be better.

Singapore Management University law academic Eugene Tan admits that the Bill would result in an extreme shift for Singapore - "from one of the most lax regimes in the world with regard to alcohol sales and consumption, to being fairly restrictive".

But he said "the Bill is long overdue; irresponsible drinking in a very liberal regime has created lots of disamenities, particularly in residential areas".

"Hopefully the whole notion of responsible drinking will kick in.

"Ultimately, you can't police the whole island at any one time, so you really need people to buy into why these changes are necessary. If there are better consumption patterns and habits, who knows, in a couple of years, you might see the regime relaxing a bit."

National University of Singapore sociologist Paulin Straughan said more data is needed before the public can decide whether the new Bill is necessary.

"What we need is to have data on the extent (to which) consumption of alcohol in public places was reported as public nuisance," she said.

"If there is no problem, and something like that is slapped on us, of course, it will be interpreted as (being) very harsh.

"But if there are incidents that have been reported, and they are sufficient for us to see this as a social issue, then that would suggest that the law has to step in."

There were 49 public order offences - such as serious hurt, rioting and affray - in Geylang in 2013, making it the least safe place in that regard when compared with other areas of congregation, such as Clarke Quay, Boat Quay, Chinatown and Joo Chiat.

Little India was second on the list with 25 public order offences in 2013.

Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics executive director Jolovan Wham also asked for "clear information".

He said: "This, to me, has singled out foreign workers unfairly. By designating Little India and Geylang as Liquor Control Zones, that is profiling and it's discriminatory.

"If it's of such a concern, we need statistics to show that crime has resulted because of alcohol in these areas."

Additional reporting by Isaac Neo, Lim Yi Han and Hoe Pei Shan

Dismay for young clubbers, relief for residents
By Amir Hussain and Lim Yi Han, The Straits Times, 20 Jan 2015

THE plan to ban drinking in public places from 10.30pm to 7am is proving unpopular with young clubbers, but has been welcomed by residents living near entertainment districts.

The late-night gatherings around Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay have caused many living there to complain about the noise and littering that takes place on weekends and every Wednesday, which is earmarked "Ladies Night" by many clubs.

When The Straits Times visited these areas last Friday night, as many as 500 people - mostly young adults in their early 20s - were drinking in public after buying alcohol from retail shops such as a nearby 7-Eleven store.

In the vicinity of nightclub Zouk, groups sat on the floor drinking. On Read Bridge, a popular gathering place in Clarke Quay, young people lined the sides, many with drinks in hand.

They said they preferred to get a buzz first from cheaper alcohol bought from convenience stores, before heading to clubs where drinks are more expensive.

Even after midnight, there were long queues for drinks at such stores, which currently stop selling alcohol only between 3am and 6am. The Bill introduced yesterday will not allow retail shops to sell alcohol after 10.30pm.

Student Desiree Chen, 21, said: "I can understand the rationale behind this, but perhaps the ban on public drinking in entertainment places like Clarke Quay can be pushed to a later time. Maybe the ban should be kept to just residential zones."

Another student, 19-year-old Khoo Wei Hao, said: "There shouldn't be a ban here (in Clarke Quay) as it is an entertainment spot. It will be less 'happening'... a lot of people wouldn't want to go there any more."

But Singapore Nightlife Business Association president Dennis Foo said the proposed new regulations are a long time coming. "It's about time we became a really safe place," he said. "Retailers are selling their alcohol at a fraction of our bar price. Many purchase cheap alcohol from convenience stores, get themselves drunk in places like Read Bridge, and enter the bars and clubs and make a nuisance and get into fights.

"We get the brunt of this and it's really unfair."

Residents also believe the proposed rules will help clean up the area. One 42-year-old who resides at Watermark at Robertson Quay condominium and wanted to be known only as Mr Tan, said: "There are broken glasses and a lot of littering on Wednesdays and weekends. The restrictions will help address these problems."

Mr Rahul Kalia, a 39-year-old businessman who lives at Tribeca by the Waterfront condominium in Kim Seng Road, said: "I've never felt unsafe, but you can see littering and there can be a bit of noise. It is a good proactive measure to prevent anything worse from happening."

Proposed public boozing laws ‘unfair to most drinkers’
By Yvonne Lim, TODAY, 21 Jan 2015

The proposed new laws to cramp alcohol consumption in public spaces have been widely pilloried, with brickbats focused on what are deemed as overreaching regulations.

The plan to bar boozing in public between 10.30pm and 7am, as proposed under the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill tabled on Monday, drew widespread objection, with many saying it would be an unfair penalty on the majority of drinkers who are responsible.

Under the proposed laws, over-the-counter alcohol sale will stop at 10.30pm — a provision that has been decried by many. Business developer Yvonne Choy, 27, noted that “not everyone can afford to drink at bars and restaurants”. “Those who want to get a can of beer and sit outdoors to enjoy the night air after a long day at work will not be able to do so anymore.”

Mr Cheong Yew Seng, meanwhile, wrote on TODAY’s Facebook page: “Come on, after a hard day’s work, you just want to pop over to the convenience store and have a quick beer sometimes. What’s wrong with that? Or you want to have a little picnic on the beach over the weekend, watch the stars and have a beer — all very benign activities. Lighten up!”

As the outcry continues, some Members of Parliament have said enforcement of the new regulation against drinkers can be more flexible, while others sought to provide assurance that the grouses would be taken into consideration.

Member of Parliament Zaqy Mohamad (Chua Chu Kang GRC) said there could be areas where enforcement against public drinking could be more lax, such as near clubs.

In residential areas, however, Mr Zaqy felt the curtailment was necessary to minimise incidences of alcohol-induced social disamenities, such as noise and littering. “The ‘flexible’ zones must be a good distance from residential areas,” he said.

Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng also said some leniency towards those who are “just having clean fun” might be warranted. He suggested that approval for extended hours of drinking at social activities, such as barbecue parties, be “simpler and easier to obtain”.

While he reiterated that the Bill is in response to concern over public drinking that had been raised, MP Zainudin Nordin (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC) said he is certain grievances expressed by the public would be taken into consideration and would help determine what the laws would constitute, if they are passed.

In response to queries, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) indicated that enforcement officers will apply the rules in a calibrated manner when possible. In other words, officers will not turn to arrest as the first option for infringements, provided the offenders comply with instructions to stop and dispose of their alcohol.

“If there is public annoyance, the Bill has a provision that allows the police to advise the person to move on and leave the place. If he complies, no further action will be taken,” said a spokesperson in response to TODAY’s queries. The police can issue a fine or make an arrest if one refuses to cooperate, she added. Infringements are punishable with a fine of up to S$1,000 at the first instance, while repeat offenders face up to three months’ jail and/or fines of not more than S$2,000.

Planned laws on foreign-worker dorms ‘infringe personal space’
Move unnecessarily singles out migrant workers, reinforces stereotypes about them: NGOs
By Emilia Tan, TODAY, 21 Jan 2015

Non-government organisations advocating for foreign workers’ welfare here are concerned that the designation of foreign workers dormitories as public spaces — to deal with drunken behaviour — are infringing on what little space this group can call their own in Singapore.

The move, they said, unnecessarily singles out foreign workers and further reinforces stereotypes some may hold about them following the Little India riot in December 2013.

Under the provision — which is part of the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill tabled on Monday — a person who is drunk and unable to take care of himself within these dormitories could be charged and, if convicted, be fined up to S$1,000, jailed up to a month, or both.

Executive director of the Humanitarian Organisation for Migrant Economics (HOME) Jolovan Wham said: “I don’t think it’s fair. It’s like we’re singling them (foreign workers) out, stereotyping that they need to be controlled just because of the Little India riot.

“I’ll understand if the dormitories have their own rules and regulations such as curfews or anything like that, but to turn it into a law that comes with fines and jail terms, that is very harsh,” he said, adding that dormitories do not need such laws to manage drunken behaviour.

Transient Workers Count Too executive committee member Debbie Fordyce noted that with the proposed ban on selling takeaway alcohol and drinking in public spaces after 10.30pm islandwide, workers have little space left to unwind with a drink.

Mr Wham added: “We have homes to go back to drink, but the dormitories are the foreign workers’ homes yet they are subjected to the proposed rules, where there might be checks.”

While laws do not forbid drinking on dormitory premises — some dormitories have beer gardens — the threat of a hefty fine for drunkenness would cast a pall over the residents.

“Many migrant workers earn less than S$1,000 a month. A fine of S$1,000 would be more than a month’s worth of salary, and that would be particularly harsh given their families depend on that money for basic needs,” said Ms Fordyce.

Mr Mah Tien Guo, who has been working in Singapore as a construction worker for six years, told TODAY that foreign workers like him would occasionally drink at their dormitories after work and rarely to the point of intoxication.

Said the 45-year-old from China: “I am not a heavy drinker who gets drunk all the time; I just drink sometimes after a long day at work with my friends.”

Laws on drunken behaviour could be enforced in foreign-worker dorms
By Yvonne Lim, TODAY, 20 Jan 2015

Foreign-worker dormitories will be designated as public areas for the purposes of enforcing laws on drunken behaviour, under the proposed liquor control laws.

This means that within the premises of such dormitories, a person who is drunk and unable to take care of himself would be liable to a fine of up to S$1,000 or a jail term of up to a month, or both.

The clause comes on the heels of the Government’s move to build mega-dormitories to house more workers. In August last year, a 16,800-bed complex at Tuas South Avenue 1 opened its doors to the first 3,000 workers. The Government is also seeking to pass the Foreign Employee Dormitories Bill to license larger-sized dormitories — offering 1,000 beds or more — from the second half of this year.

Dormitory operators TODAY spoke to said their dormitories already have rules in place restricting retail hours of alcohol, as well as security to monitor for unruly behaviour.

Dormitory Association of Singapore president Kelvin Teo said there have not been any incidences of violence due to drunken behaviour.

“Sometimes, after a few drinks, they get a bit loud, or even get into arguments with the other residents. The security guard will either bring the worker to a ‘cooling room’ — which is usually the Multi Purpose Hall of the dormitory area to calm down, or take him aside and ask his friends to get him to calm down.”

However, he said there was no harm in the Government’s move.

Mr Simon Lee, who runs three dormitories — two in Soon Lee Road and one in Seletar Farmway — said that currently the beer gardens at the three dormitories are licensed to sell liquor up to midnight and residents are allowed to sit and drink for as long as they like. The move would further enforce already existing measures in place to keep order in the dormitories, he said.

“We have security guards and staff patrolling the dormitories 24/7. So far, we have not had any serious incidents,” he added.

Retailers expect to be hit hard by curbs
Large part of Geylang slated to be Liquor Control Zone
By Jessica Lim, Consumer Correspondent And Cheryl Faith Wee, The Straits Times, 20 Jan 2015

SHOP owners braced themselves for potential losses, as news of the new alcohol restrictions reverberated through the streets of Geylang.

The Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill introduced in Parliament yesterday would mean that shops can sell take- away alcohol only until 10.30pm.

But Geylang retailers will be hit doubly hard if the Bill is passed - a large swathe of the area is slated to be a Liquor Control Zone, where there will be further restrictions similar to those in place in Little India following the riot on Dec 8, 2013.

In Little India now, licensed shops can sell alcohol only up to 8pm on weekends, public holidays and the eve of public holidays.

The alcohol-dense Geylang had 183 liquor licences per sq km in 2013, and many shops can sell alcohol until midnight.

All 10 retailers in Geylang contacted by The Straits Times said that most of their alcohol sales occur within those last few hours between 9pm and midnight.

Foreign workers, who make up the bulk of their customers, typically return to their dormitories after work to freshen up and have dinner before heading out for a drink later in the evening.

Mr Deen Malim, 48, the owner of Alfa's Minimart in Geylang, is certain that this is the death knell.

"It's bad, it's very bad news," he said, adding that alcohol sales make up half of his revenue, and that sales of other items like snacks will also be affected. "This will kill us. Can the Government help us in any way? I don't know where to go, what to do."

He had just renewed his rental contract for another two years last August, and pays himself a salary of slightly over $1,000 a month - the only profit he makes, he said.

His sentiments echo those of Mr Junaid Abdul Kader, 70, the owner of a provision shop nearby.

Alcohol sales make up 70 per cent of his revenue. "Actually now, I am only just maintaining. I have to close down my shop."

Over at minimart Ba Fang Trading, owner Wu Min asked why Geylang was being targeted.

"We have many places selling alcohol here, it's true", said the 35-year-old, who predicts that business will fall by 30 per cent. "But you should increase surveillance instead of not letting us sell. Why blame all violent behaviour on alcohol?"

Mr Edwin Tong, who oversees several lorongs in Geylang as MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC, feels it is important to strike a balance between the new rules and businesses which might be affected by them.

He added that he would speak up against the possible cut-off time for retail sales in Geylang on weekends and public holidays if it is brought forward even earlier, to before 8pm.

The Geylang shopkeepers' fears echo the reality that many retailers in Little India faced after alcohol sale restrictions were imposed there. Sales plummeted at many shops, with more than 20 of them reportedly closing down.

But last Saturday, Law Minister K. Shanmugam said on Facebook that affected liquor sellers will continue getting help to diversify into other areas, like recreation spots for foreign workers. "Some of these owners have adjusted their business models and are doing well," he said, adding that residents believe Little India feels safer now.

The changes may spell good news for non-alcohol retail businesses in the area.

Ms Sunny Sun, 38, owner of Joyfor Backpackers Hostel in Geylang, said that four to five customers cancel their reservations each month after finding out that Geylang is a red-light district.

"We get questions about the safety of the area. The new rules might help clean up the place a little and improve its reputation."

Mr Sadandan Ramach, 24, a plumber who usually shares a drink or two with friends on the roadside once a week, said there are just too many rules.

"It's stressful," he said. "There are so many rules, I can't remember. If I drink in my room I know I'm not breaking any of them."

Industry calls for more clarity on extension of liquor sales hours
By Jessica Lim, The Straits Times, 20 Jan 2015

THE alcohol industry has called for more clarity on when liquor retail sales hours can be extended, just hours after a Bill was introduced in Parliament yesterday to curb public consumption and the sale of alcohol.

It also asked the Government to work with the industry to tease out details on what businesses needed to do to make the transition to the new set of regulations.

The Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill, if passed, will bar retail shops islandwide from selling takeaway liquor after 10.30pm.

Currently, many do so till midnight. An extension for such sales may be granted on a case-by-case basis, although no other details were provided.

In a joint press statement yesterday, 13 major retailers and manufacturers - including 7-Eleven, and Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) - said they supported the regulations and even called for a "high-level and visible enforcement" of the restriction on liquor consumption in public places.

But in the same breath, they called on the Government to be circumspect in applying the law, as "addressing the relevant social issues need not result in disproportionately penalising responsible consumers who are the majority in Singapore".

When contacted separately, APB - which helped to facilitate a government visit to Australia last year to study how the government there worked with the industry to tackle alcohol-related issues - said business would not be impacted greatly as "consumers in Singapore are generally responsible drinkers".

Supermarket chain Sheng Siong expects a "knee-jerk reaction" in the market initially. "But as more consumers become more aware of the new restrictions, they can plan ahead and carry on as usual," said its spokesman.

Cheers, however, expects alcohol sales at its 165 outlets here to dip by as much as 15 per cent to 20 per cent as "it has more stores that operate 24 hours". Their central outlets are likely to be hit hardest, said its spokesman.

The industry members have also come up with ways to work with the Government.

They offered, among other things, to volunteer a liquor retail licence up for suspension for a period of time if a public liquor consumption offence was traced back to their store.

They also offered to work with the police to identify problem hot spots and post information to alert the public to the new restrictions and penalties.

Dorms get ready to handle more workers on weekends
Number of those staying in likely to rise with alcohol curbs in public places
By Amelia Tan, The Straits Times, 22 Jan 2015

FOREIGN worker dormitory operators are preparing for a rise in the number of residents staying in on the weekends, following proposed curbs on alcohol consumption in public places.

They are looking to expand sitting areas inside the dormitories and hire more security guards.

"Benches and chairs can be placed in and near the beer gardens and cafeterias to cater for more people," said Dormitory Association of Singapore president Kelvin Teo.

Mr Ken Lim, chairman of Singapore's biggest dormitory operator Vobis, said: "We will also need to deploy more security guards... around the beer gardens to deal with more human traffic."

The proposed ban on alcohol consumption in public places after 10.30pm does not extend to dormitories. However, the authorities can take action against people who are found in a drunken state on the premises.

The Ministry of Home Affairs also clarified that beer gardens and drink stalls in dormitories can continue to sell alcohol based on the timing stated in their liquor licences.

Most of these establishments have licences to sell alcohol until 11.59pm.

The spike in the number of people staying in is likely to occur only on Saturdays, when the workers go out to meet their friends, which sometimes includes drinking a few cans of beer.

But if the Bill is passed, then this will bring an end to such an activity and instead drive them back to the dormitories earlier.

"We will return to our dormitories earlier, by around 9pm or 10pm on Saturday, as we cannot drink in public places after 10.30pm. There is no problem," said construction foreman R. Jothinathan, 46.

Bengali newspaper Banglar Kantha's editor A. K.M. Mohsin said: "Workers cannot afford to pay for alcohol in pubs and coffee shops. It is also nice to sit outside as it is cooler. It is a pity that they cannot do this any more."

Mr Jolovan Wham, executive director of migrant workers group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, said the law affects the low-income group most.

"The middle class can drink in their homes or can afford to drink in pubs which serve alcohol after 10.30pm. The poor and foreign workers do not have such a choice," said Mr Wham.

But some foreign workers said the new restrictions will encourage better behaviour.

"Sometimes workers stay out late and drink too much. Some get into trouble. I think workers will go back to their dorms earlier now and drink less. It is better this way," said Mr Shanmugam Mana Mohan, 36, a construction worker from India.

When does the ban apply?
The Straits Times, 20 Jan 2015

WHAT you need to know about the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill, which plans to ban the drinking of alcohol in public places between 10.30pm and 7am (retail shops also have to stop sales of alcohol at 10.30pm):

What is a public place?

Any open-air or enclosed place that members of the public can access, such as parks, Housing Board void decks and malls.

People can drink in their homes at any time, and in premises such as restaurants, coffee shops and bars during the hours stipulated in their licences.

Common areas in condominiums are not considered public.

What if I want to drink during an outdoor New Year's gathering or during a barbecue?

Parties can apply for a permit to drink after 10.30pm.

Details of the application process will be given at a later date.

Does the 10.30pm ban apply to mildly alcoholic drinks as well, such as light beers?

So long as a beverage contains more than 0.5 per cent of ethanol - the main source of alcohol in drinks - by mass or volume, it is qualified as liquor and the ban applies.

A can of beer typically has about 5 per cent alcohol content.

Singapore’s proposed liquor laws vs other countries
TODAY, 19 Jan 2015

Under proposed liquor control laws introduced in Parliament today (Jan 19), people will not be able to purchase alcohol for take-away, or consume alcohol in public places from 10.30pm to 7am. But Singapore is not the first country to put a curb on liquor sales and consumption. Here’s a look at where Singapore stands, compared to other countries.


It is generally illegal to consume alcohol in public places, but it varies across states. For example in Brisbane, in Queensland, consumption of liquor is not allowed at all public places, except at licensed premises who also have to stop sales by midnight. Whereas in Sydney, in the state of New South Wales, hotspots with high incidence of liquor-induced violence are identified as alcohol-free zones. The law requires for 1.30am lockouts, where hotels, clubs, nightclubs and bars in Sydney’s CBD entertainment precinct have to lock out new customers from 1.30am and alcohol trading has to cease by 3am. In both states, the sale of takeaway alcohol is banned after 10pm.


The United States has “dry states”, where the manufacture, distribution, importation and sale of alcoholic beverages are prohibited or tightly restricted. In states such as Kansas and Maryland, the consumption of alcohol in public places is prohibited, and liquor consumption is limited to bars. Other states are governed by more relaxed liquor laws. For instance, takeaway alcohol is available up till 10pm in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, till midnight in Washington DC and till 2am in Kansas. Texas is one of the exceptions where the drinking of alcohol in public places is permitted, but problematic areas are designated as liquor-free zones.


Although shops can only sell alcohol till 10pm, people are allowed to drink in public places. However, there are zones where the police have powers to ask people to surrender opened bottles of alcohol.


Other than a legal drinking age, there are no other alcohol restrictions.

Liquor Control Bill: How other countries and cities in Asia tackle drinking
The Straits Times, 22 Jan 2015

Singapore tabled on Monday a new Bill to ban public consumption of alcohol from 10.30pm to 7am islandwide. Here is a look at how other countries and cities in the region compare.

BRUNEI: Alcohol is not allowed to be sold, although "private consumption by non-Muslims is allowed", according to information on the official Brunei tourism website. Non-Muslim tourists are allowed to bring in duty-free booze which can be consumed only in hotels and some restaurants.

CHINA: There is no alcohol ban in public places. But as part of President Xi Jinping's frugality campaign since late 2012, local governments and the People's Liberation Army have stepped up efforts to ban officials from drinking so as to curb excessive spending and to improve their public image.

The ban applies mostly during office hours. Sky-high prices of Chinese liquor like Maotai have plummeted as a result of the curb.

INDIA: Alcohol laws are not uniform and quite complex; each of the 29 states and seven union territories has its own laws relating to alcohol. Still a ban on drinking in public places has been around for a long time, in some states going back to the 1960s. In Delhi, anyone caught drinking in public will be fined up to 50,000 rupees (S$1,100) but there is no jail term.

Half a dozen states have alcohol bans, which means it cannot be sold in shops and restaurants. In Gujarat, foreign tourists can buy a 30-day liquor licence or permit and can purchase alcohol at designated hotels. Last year, Kerala became the latest state to impose alcohol curbs, with complete prohibition by 2024.

There are also "dry days" on national holidays like Republic Day when alcohol is not sold in shops or restaurants nationwide.

INDONESIA: No drinking in public places like parks is allowed. A presidential regulation issued last year allows drinks with over 5 per cent alcohol to be sold only on licensed premises such as bars, hotels, restaurants and clubs.

Drinks with under 5 per cent alcohol can be sold in minimarkets or the like. No alcoholic beverages can be sold near places of worship. During the fasting month, no alcohol can be sold.

District and provincial leaders are given leeway on how much they want to limit alcohol distribution. Thus, Aceh, the only province practising syariah law, has a strict alcohol ban and any Muslim caught consuming is liable to punishment, including whipping.

In most other places, however, alcohol regulations are weakly implemented.

MALAYSIA: Muslims are barred from drinking alcohol. Non-Muslims do not face any curbs but some local governments discourage the sale of alcohol in neighbourhoods that are predominantly Muslim. In the states of Kelantan and Terengganu, alcohol bans are enforced in places like hotels, but non-Muslim establishments like Chinese restaurants and sundry shops are pretty much left alone.

THAILAND: No ban on drinking in public places. But alcohol is banned on religious holidays, and in public offices, educational institutions, parks and dormitories.

Alcohol sale is banned in stores from midnight to 11am, and 2pm to 5pm, but available in bars and restaurants.

Lately, in what appears to be a "social order" campaign which some critics say is a licence for corruption, police in Bangkok have stepped up checks on drivers late at night - and there have been anecdotes of bottles of liquor found in cars confiscated.

THE PHILIPPINES: Drinking is banned in public places only during elections, and on a few occasions when crowd control is essential, such as the recent feast of the Black Nazarene.

Otherwise, anyone can drink pretty much any where and at any time of the day. There are at least three cities - Manila and Caloocan in the capital region, and Davao in Mindanao province - that have passed ordinances banning street drinking. But the fines are so minuscule and enforcement virtually non-existent in Manila and Caloocan that the bans are largely ineffective.

Davao, on the other hand, is strictly enforcing an ordinance passed in 2013 banning stores and bars from selling or serving alcohol from 1am to 8am.


FAQs on the proposed Liquor Control Bill
By Lim Yi Han, The Straits Times, 22 Jan 2015

The Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill, which was introduced in Parliament on Monday, has garnered wide-ranging reactions with some expressing support for the Bill, while others criticised it.

Under the Bill, people will not be allowed to drink in public places between 10.30pm and 7am. Retail shops will also have to stop selling alcohol after 10.30pm.

Many netizens have also raised questions about the proposed law. The Straits Times answers some commonly asked questions.

If I throw a pool party at my condominium, is it considered a public place? Can I consume alcohol beyond 10.30pm?

No, it is not considered a public place. A public place is where people have free access, such as parks, beaches and HDB void decks. But a condominium management may impose restrictions on drinking in the common areas within the premises.

If I queue up at a retail shop to buy alcohol at 10.25pm, but reach the cashier only at 10.35pm, will I be able to buy the liquor?

No, retail shops are not allowed to sell alcohol after 10.30pm.

But shops may apply for an extension under their liquor licence, and this may be granted on a case-by-case basis.

Will duty-free stores have to stop selling alcohol by 10.30pm?

Yes, the ban applies to duty-free stores, which are considered retail outlets. But they may also apply for an extension which will allow them to sell beyond the permitted hours in the Bill.

Can I drink alcohol at hawker centres and coffee shops after 10.30pm, if they are closed?

No. These are considered public places, and drinking is not allowed from 10.30pm. It is only permitted if the coffee shop is open and has a licence to sell liquor beyond 10.30pm. But customers have to drink there and are not allowed to take it elsewhere.

If I conceal the alcohol in a cup or bottle and drink it in public, will I be penalised?

The rules are unclear on this point but if the person appears drunk or rowdy, police can ask to check if he is indeed drinking alcohol.

Under the Bill, police can order a person who appears drunk or is a nuisance to dispose of the liquor and to leave. If he complies with police orders, no further action will be taken.

But if the person ignores the advice or is a repeat offender, the police may consider tougher action, such as issuing a composition fine or even making an arrest.

A first-time offence will carry a fine of up to $1,000, while repeat offenders could be fined a maximum of $2,000 and may face a jail term of up to three months.


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