For now, police to educate public on new alcohol rules that have kicked in

The police will adopt a light touch in the initial phase of the new alcohol restrictions, which started on April 1. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE 
The police will adopt a light touch in the initial phase of the new alcohol restrictions, which started on April 1. -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE 

SINGAPORE - Police will adopt a light touch in the initial phase of the new alcohol restrictions, which started on April 1.

Superintendent Koh Tee Meng, assistant director of operations management division said on Wednesday: "In this initial phase, police will take a light-touch approach and advise the public who are found drinking in public places during the restricted hours. So, it is more of an advisory and educational approach."

No timeframe was given on how long this "light-touch" approach will last.

Supt Koh was speaking to reporters at the sidelines of a walkabout with Marine Parade GRC MP Fatimah Lateef, police officers and grassroots leaders in Geylang on Wednesday night.

The group was handing out pamphlets with information on the new law to the public at Geylang Lorong 34 to 40, within the Marine Parade GRC.

Drinking alcohol in public places is banned from 10.30pm to 7am every day, and shops are also not allowed to sell takeaway alcohol during those hours. There are stricter rules in Geylang and Little India as they are designated as Liquor Control Zones, as stated under the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Act.

Dr Fatimah said: "We decided that it would be good to come out, make some observations, talk to people, talk to some of the shopkeepers and retailers... When talking to people on the ground, you notice that most of them have heard that there is such a (law) coming on."

Supt Koh added: "It is important for police to work together with community partners because the law has just come into effect and even though the newspapers have reported it... there may still be some people who are not aware."

A handful of people were drinking along the pavements or back lanes in Geylang - but before 10.30pm. They were handed the pamphlets and told of the curbs.

One of them was a Chinese national, who only wanted to known as Mr Wei. The 45-year-old construction worker said he was not aware of the law, and would now drink inside his dormitory instead.

At Robertson Quay in the vicinity of popular nightclub Zouk, the area was unusually quiet after midnight, with only a handful of people sitting around. Typically, the area would be packed with young party-goers drinking and making merry, especially on Wednesday nights.

Only one group was spotted drinking illegally as officers walked by. The youth who had a bottle of alcohol was told to throw it away. He was then briefed by officers on the restrictions. Another group immediately threw the alcohol away as they saw the police approaching.

While the public in that area is complying with the law, restaurants and pubs are trying to assess the effect the restrictions would have on their businesses.

Ms Michelle Koh, executive director of Singapore River One, an association of businesses in Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay, said: "I think it's too early to say... Everybody is waiting to see how this Liquor Control Act will pan out. We are taking a wait-and-see attitude."

Elsewhere, retailers selling alcohol, especially those in Geylang and Little India areas, have said that they are worried their profits will fall.

When asked about the issue in Geylang, Dr Fatimah said: "You have to look at the whole big picture. It is a balanced approach, really, and it is looking at the needs of all the stakeholders in the vicinity.

"This is not just a commercial area or an entertainment area, it is also a residential area... and I think there are ways and means of actually improving your business in other ways besides just serving alcohol."