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Density of liquor licence holders in Little India 'not the highest' among foreign worker enclaves

Published on Mar 20, 2014 12:58 PM
Foreign workers seen near Chander Road in Little India on the Friday evening, a day before the alcohol ban takes effect. -- ST FILE PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Although Little India has the most licenced liquor retailers among foreign worker congregation areas here, the density of these licensees is not the highest on a per land area basis, the Committee of Inquiry (COI) into the Dec 8 riot was told on Thursday.

There were 331 liquor licenses spread across the Indian enclave's 1.1 sq km of land space in 2013, or 301 licenses per sq km, said Police Licensing and Regulatory Department director Jessica Kwok. Comparatively, similar areas in Chinatown and Joo Chiat had 750 and 544 liquor licenses per sq km respectively.

Assistant Commissioner Kwok, who was testifying on Day 20 of the public inquiry, also said that within indoor complexes, there were 83 liquor licenses at Golden Mile Complex - where Thais tend to gather - last year, 30 at Filipino hotspot Lucky Plaza, and 45 at Peninsula Plaza, where Myanmar nationals frequent.

In fact, the number of licences issued to retailers in Little India fell 4.6 per cent to 331 in 2013, down from 347 in 2009. This bucked the nationwide trend of a 4 per cent rise in the same period, AC Kwok told the COI. Of these 331, only less than 20 per cent were newly issued last year.

She added that the police does not "work based on a cap of the maximum number of licenses". Rather, each application is individually assessed, taking into account the suitability of the applicant, and terrain considerations like the law and order situation and traffic issues. "People want to sell at a place where there is going to be buyers, and where Little India is concerned there are a lot of South Asian workers (but) by and large the law and order situation has remained under control over the years."

No "special measures" have been imposed on liquor licenses in Little India in recent years, as compared to Clarke Quay where alcohol consumption hours were curtailed last year, said AC Kwok.

But there was a moratorium imposed on Little India in 2001 due to "too many liquor licenses" then, she said, without citing numbers.

That, however, was lifted in 2004, she added after it was recognised that Singapore needed to "remake itself to compete globally, a more vibrant economy and society, and so we took the position that every license would be assessed on its own merit".