Thursday, 2 April 2015

Liquor Control Act to take effect from 1 April 2015

New liquor laws: What's ok, what's not
Curbs kick in today; police will take 'calibrated' approach in enforcement
By Lim Yi Han, The Straits Times, 1 Apr 2015

THE new alcohol laws that apply from today will not stop people from having a tipple if they fire up a barbecue in a park.

As long as you have a permit from the National Parks Board to organise the barbecue in a park, including East Coast Park, you can pop the corks.

But drinking must be within the "immediate vicinity" of the barbecue area and only during the permit duration, according to the police website.

Several Members of Parliament previously expressed concern about whether it would be easy to apply for a consumption permit that would allow drinking at an event held in a public place.

Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Hri Kumar Nair had suggested that a person should be allowed to ask for a permit as part of the application for the barbecue pit itself.

Drinking is also allowed during restricted hours at events held by the Government or statutory boards for a public purpose.

The new restrictions are part of the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Act, which bans drinking in all public places from 10.30pm to 7am every day.

Places with free access such as parks and Housing Board void decks are deemed public places while condominiums and chalets are regarded as private.

Retail outlets such as convenience stores or supermarkets are barred from selling takeaway alcohol from 10.30pm to 7am.

People can drink in licensed premises such as restaurants and pubs, which can sell alcohol according to its licence.

Organisers of events to be held in public places can apply for a "consumption permit" from the police if drinking during restricted hours may occur.

Police can extend retail sale hours on a case-by-case basis after considering "the propensity for public disorder and disamenities" in the area and what measures the licensees are prepared to put in place to reduce drinking-related problems.

MHA also outlined the stricter rules for Geylang and Little India, which are designated as Liquor Control Zones - places with a higher risk of public disorder associated with excessive drinking.

Public drinking is banned in Geylang and Little India from 7am on Saturdays to 7am on Mondays. The ban also applies from 7pm on the eve of a public holiday to 7am on the day after the holiday. This is similar to the temporary measures introduced to curb excessive drinking in Little India after the riot in 2013. Shops within the zones are also not allowed to sell takeaway alcohol from 7pm on weekends and the eve of a public holiday and the holiday itself.

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.

MHA stressed that police will take a "calibrated" approach in enforcement.

Mr Nair, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, said that while there have been some negative reactions to the law, it has received "very strong support" among his residents.

He added: "This is a practical response to a longstanding issue on the ground. So, we need to give this some time to work, and then assess if there needs to be any change in approach."

Revellers still drinking after liquor law kicked in
Some drinkers in Clarke Quay area say they were not aware of the curbs
By Lim Yi Han, The Straits Times, 2 Apr 2015

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.

Quiet night out after alcohol curbs kick in
Fewer people, less litter seen at public places popular with drinkers
By Lim Yi Han And Miranda Yeo, The Straits Times, 6 Apr 2015

THE contrast could not have been more stark.

In the first weekend after alcohol restrictions kicked in here, the rowdy revellers and piles of litter at popular public drinking spots were absent.

Read Bridge at Clarke Quay, previously packed with over 300 drinkers who loitered there until the early hours, had only about one-third that number of people when The Straits Times visited after the cut-off time of 10.30pm. Most were not drinking openly.

Absent also were the leftover cans and bottles, a common sight previously.

On the previous Saturday, crowds were having a tipple in open areas even after 4am.

Last Saturday, the pavements near Robertson Bridge - near popular nightclub Zouk - were unusually quiet. No one was spotted drinking there at 11.30pm and there was no litter.

Five police officers were seen patrolling the area.

At the 7-Eleven convenience store near Read Bridge, the refrigerator containing alcohol was covered up after the permitted hours for selling liquor passed.

Under the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Act, which kicked in on April 1, alcohol consumption is not allowed in public places from 10.30pm to 7am.

Retail outlets such as convenience stores and supermarkets are also barred from selling takeaway alcohol during these hours.

Stricter rules apply in Little India and Geylang, which have been designated Liquor Control Zones.

There were mixed reactions to the new law.

Said production executive Ryan Laguio, 32, who comes from the Philippines: "I feel safer on Read Bridge now. There were many drunk people there previously. The new law also helps us to control ourselves because we can't buy drinks after 10.30pm."

He added: "Now, we just drink one beer and sit here and chill. It is quite nice."

But Mr Harpreet Singh, 31, an Indian national, said he found the place dull.

The project manager in an IT firm said: "I love the nightlife in Singapore and being able to drink in public here is important. There are fewer people here now and Clarke Quay will be less lively."

For undergraduate Nadia Cheah, 20, the new law means she now drinks at her friend's place before heading to the clubs, where alcohol is more expensive.

"It is quite inconvenient, but I guess it is better for the residents there," she said.

Mr Ponusami Kruppiah, a security guard at King's Centre, near Zouk, supports the restrictions.

The 64-year-old said: "People here can cause disturbance to the public because they are very noisy and most people here leave their rubbish behind after drinking.

"There is no point telling them to throw it away as they are drunk."

* Persistent offender fined $1,000 for early morning drinks
Case among first prosecutions under new liquor control law
By Amir Hussain, The Straits Times, 6 May 2016

Tan Gak Hin was on his way home close to midnight when he saw some friends drinking beer on a bench near his HDB block. He could not resist joining them.

Tan, 52, who had repeatedly been caught drinking in public during restricted hours, was given the maximum $1,000 fine yesterday.

He had already been warned by the police once and made to pay a composition fine on another occasion.

He claimed he was troubled and frustrated when he joined his friends for a drink that night. But when the group got too rowdy, someone called the police.

Tan pleaded guilty to consuming liquor in public during prohibited hours (between 10.30pm and 7am). His friends got off with a warning from the police as it was the first time they had been caught doing so.

The case is among the first prosecutions under the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Act passed in Parliament in January last year. The Bill came into effect on April 1 last year.

On Jan 21, Malaysian Siow Hui Lin, 28, was also prosecuted under the new law. She allegedly consumed beer at a hawker centre at about 1.25am on May 6 last year. Her case, which includes charges of behaving in a disorderly manner and assaulting a policeman, is pending trial.

A district court heard that at about 11pm on Feb 22, Tan, whose occupation is not known, met four friends near Block 279, Bishan Street 24 - a five-minute walk from his home.

At about 2.25am the next day, someone from the next block called the police to say that there had been shouting in the area for the past half an hour. Policemen found Tan and his friends drinking beer and reeking of alcohol.

"The (officer) then notified them of the infringement under (the) Liquor Control Act and advised them to dispose of the remaining cans of beer (and) they acknowledged and complied with the directions," a police prosecutor told the court.

In mitigation, Tan, who did not have a lawyer, told District Judge Ronald Gwee via a Mandarin interpreter: "It was the 15th day of the Chinese New Year. I was on my way home and saw my friends. They told me to join them and I did so.

"I was very frustrated with my family (and) I have financial problems, so I joined them for a drink."

The maximum penalty for consuming liquor in a public place during a prescribed no-public-drinking period is a $1,000 fine on a first conviction. Repeat offenders face a maximum punishment of a $2,000 fine and three months' jail.

Online, Tan's sentence drew a mixed response, with some toasting the new law and others calling the fine excessive.

The Bill had also elicited strong views - both from the public as well as parliamentarians - when it was debated in the House.

In a statement issued a day before the law took effect, the Ministry of Home Affairs said: "The police will take a calibrated and even-handed approach in enforcing the law. If a person is found consuming liquor in public places, the police will take down his particulars in the first instance and require him to dispose of the liquor.

"If there is public annoyance, the police can also advise the person to move on and leave the place. If he complies, no further action will be taken.

"If the person ignores the police's advice, or is a recalcitrant offender, the police may consider taking stiffer actions such as issuing him with a composition fine or arresting him."

** 2 years on: Fewer public-order incidents related to liquor consumption after stricter rules imposed
Following Liquor Control Act in 2015, public-order incidents related to liquor consumption have decreased
By Lim Min Zhang, The Straits Times, 10 Jul 2017

The number of public-order incidents related to liquor consumption has fallen following tighter regulations on alcohol sales and public drinking.

While businesses have seen their liquor sales drop, residents cheered the increase in public safety.

There were 251 such incidents in 2014, before the Liquor Control Act (LCA) came into effect in April 2015. It dropped to 97 cases in 2015, and 135 cases last year. These included offences like rioting, affray and causing serious hurt. The law bans drinking in all public places from 10.30pm to 7am, among other things.

Police said the number of class- three alcohol licences issued for the Liquor Control Zones of Little India and Geylang declined by about 30 per cent from 2014 to last year, even as the total number of licences remained "fairly constant" for the same period. Class-three licences are given to retailers who sell liquor for consumption at places other than where the liquor was bought.

Since 2015, 15 retail licence holders have committed infringements for supplying liquor outside the permitted hours of 7am to 10.30pm.

There are stricter controls in the Liquor Control Zones, which are deemed to be places with higher risk of public disorder because of excessive drinking. For instance, public drinking is banned from 7am on Saturday to 7am on Monday.

Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Melvin Yong, whose ward includes the Little India area, said: "Residents have expressed happiness with the LCA in Little India as it has reduced incidents of public disturbances such as fights occurring due to inebriated visitors."

Ms Zhao, 55, who has lived in Little India since 2005, said she has seen improvements in the neighbourhood.

The insurance agent, who declined to give her full name, said: "There are fewer people who gather here now, in part due to the increase in security patrols."

However, businesses in the controlled zones have felt the effect of the curbs.

Ms Chai Pei Chee, 35, a shop assistant at Soon Seng Eating House in Geylang, said alcohol sales have dropped by more than 50 per cent since the new law kicked in.

"The liquor restriction affects not only the liquor sales, but also our other businesses. Fewer people coming to drink has also affected our food business," she said.

In Little India, the owner of Kathika Supermarket, Ms Kumar, 50, said liquor sales have declined by 80 per cent since 2015, and her main customers have changed from foreign workers to locals. She declined to give her full name.

But Mr Yong observed that "many stalls have managed to adapt and normalise sales to pre-LCA levels" during his market visits in the area. He said: "We have also seen stalls in Tekka Centre diversifying their variety of foodstuffs to target a wider crowd and also to focus sales on the timings of the day and week not affected by the LCA."

Singapore Management University sociologist Paulin Straughan said the statistics should be welcome news for all members of the community.

But she added: "Laws and regulations cannot be the only solution to solve the problem of public disorderliness. We should look at how else we can engage foreign workers, such as through sports, if their main leisure activity is drinking."

The chairman of the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association, Mr Rajakumar Chandra, 59, said: "Little India is much more than just the number of people who gather there. It is a place with a lot of heritage and community bonding, with 24-hour shopping and ethnic-related products - all these still keep Little India vibrant."

Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Act to Take Effect from 1 April 2015
New alcohol laws passed - drinking in public places banned from 10.30pm to 7am
Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Act -Frequently Asked Questions
Cleaner, safer, more peaceful neighbourhood following Liquor Control Act

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