Win-win solution to keep al fresco experience going

I am surprised and a little concerned about the way the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is handling what it sees as a breach by businesses in Circular Road of the Street Works Act ("Goodbye to al fresco dining?"; Sunday).

It is strange for the LTA to say it supports the setting up of outdoor refreshment areas just a week after clamping down on operators with "prompt enforcement actions", with a threat of a $2,000 fine, and stating that it is the operators' "responsibility to place their tables and chairs in a manner that does not obstruct pedestrian movements". 

Club Street, like Circular Road, is pedestrianised, or closed to traffic, from 6pm to 1am on Fridays and Saturdays, and there are outlets that place chairs and tables in a manner which causes obstruction to pedestrians.

However, without the "prompt enforcement actions" and interference (at least, nothing that has been publicly announced), Club Street has thrived.

Circular Road deserves a chance to develop similarly, too. The LTA needs to exhibit some leadership and initiative here.

If it is genuinely in support of the setting up of outdoor refreshment areas, it would be great if it could show the businesses in Circular Road what can be done, where they can place their tables and chairs with the least inconvenience and danger to pedestrians, and reach some sort of agreement or compromise.

Rather than take the easy, heavy-handed way out by forcing the rules down the businesses' throats, the LTA could perhaps take the more courageous approach of working with these businesses towards a solution that would be good for business - so locals and foreigners, especially tourists, can enjoy an al fresco experience that would add to the vitality of the food and beverage scene in Singapore.

Ivan Lim 

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2015, with the headline 'Win-win solution to keep al fresco experience going'. Print Edition | Subscribe