January 29, 2019;
Police end trial extension of Clarke Quay liquor hours after rise in crimes

Police end trial extension of Clarke Quay liquor hours after rise in crimes

A trial extension to liquor licensing hours for certain operators at Clarke Quay has been ended by the police after four months.

Last August, selected nightclubs and bars at the party hot spot were given some reprieve from stricter controls in the area that were introduced in 2013.

They were allowed to sell alcohol for an extra hour every Friday night – until 4am on Saturday – instead of being allowed to do so on just two Fridays a month.

The move came after nightclubs there said the curtailed hours had hurt business, with long-time tenant Shanghai Dolly blaming them for its demise in April last year.

But it is now back to the status quo after the police found that certain crimes had increased.

Under the 2013 rules aimed at curbing drunken crimes in the entertainment and nightlife district, bars and clubs in Clarke Quay could no longer sell liquor until 6am; they had to stop by 4am on Sundays and public holidays and by 3am the rest of the week.

The trial extension of liquor licensing hours, part of a gradual relaxation of rules that began in 2016, kicked off in August last year for applicants that had not breached their liquor licensing conditions in the prior three months.

These included nightclubs Zouk, Attica and Highlander bar.

The police told The Straits Times that Clarke Quay’s management and tenants had committed to enhancing their security measures during the trial period, such as by increasing the number of patrols and security officers deployed.

But public order crimes, which include disorderly behaviour and voluntarily causing hurt, rose by 7 per cent during the trial period compared with the same period in 2017.

The police said they therefore discontinued the extended liquor licensing hours when the trial ended. Licensees can still apply for the extra hour on two Fridays a month, though businesses have said that inconsistent hours can be confusing for patrons.

Nightclubs said that they saw sales increase by up to 20 per cent during the trial period, and expressed disappointment at the decision to pull back the hours.

A spokesman for Zouk said that while there are other factors at play when assessing the long-term viability of its presence in Clarke Quay, the curtailed licensing hours “affect decisions in securing sought-after acts as it makes it tougher for them to be commercially viable”.

Singapore Nightlife Business Association (SNBA) president Joseph Ong said the outcome was not what stakeholders had hoped for, though it is not the end of the road.

The association, which represents more than 300 nightlife operators here, is leading discussions with the authorities on creating an accreditation scheme to distinguish those that meet certain training and management standards.

It is also pushing for different liquor licensing hours for different types of operators.

“Some require later licences and some don’t,” said Mr Ong. “Having a more measured approach to licensing arrangements also means that those toeing the line will not be penalised along with others.”

Efforts to tackle alcohol-related incidents are also happening at the consumer end.

The Singapore Alliance for Responsible Drinking (Sard), a partnership between the SNBA and the European Chamber of Commerce’s wine, spirits and beer committee, kicked off its first campaign last month targeting binge drinking among the young.

Mr Davide Besana, vice-chairman of the committee, said the alliance is also looking at scaling up training for bar staff to identify and prevent alcohol-related incidents.

“We can work together to identify problems before they escalate, such as by ensuring that all the security staff at bars are linked up, so when someone gets refused entry in one area, they don’t get admitted in another,” he said.

Straits Times