Alcohol sales plunge as new curbs kick in

Sales down by as much as 90 per cent for some retailers

Alcohol retailers in Geylang and Little India say they have lost hundreds of dollars in sales on the first two days after new liquor laws kicked in, with losses as high as 70 per cent to 90 per cent.

The new restrictions, which took effect on Wednesday, ban drinking in public places from 10.30pm to 7am daily. Retailers are also banned from selling takeaway alcohol during those hours.

The rules are stricter in the two liquor control zones of Geylang and Little India. Public drinking is banned from 7am on Saturdays to 7am on Mondays, and from 7pm on the eve of public holidays to 7am on the day after each holiday.

Shops in the zones cannot sell takeaway alcohol from 7pm onwards on weekends, the eve of public holidays and the holidays.

With the long weekend, retailers in the zones have to stop liquor sales by 7pm for four nights in a row, from Thursday to Sunday.

So at Sheng Siong supermarket in Geylang, for instance, shelves of beer were cordoned off after 7pm, with signs and an employee informing customers that they can no longer buy alcohol.

The owner of a provision shop in Lorong 23 in Geylang, who wanted to be known only as Mr Tay, 52, said he sold only $300 worth of alcohol on Thursday night, instead of the usual $1,000.

In Little India, Mr Sadhasivam Kailasam, 41, had to turn away several customers who visited his liquor shop just five minutes after the cut-off time.

Many are foreign workers who do not leave work until 6pm, he said. "By the time they come here after work, it's too late for them to buy alcohol." He sold $200 worth of alcohol yesterday, a tenth of the $2,000 he usually makes on a public holiday.

A customer, software engineer Arvind Rajendran, 28, had been looking forward to a can of beer, but did not know about the earlier cut-off time there. He quipped: "It is a shame that it is too late now, but at least I save money."

Tourists are affected too, said Mr Kamal Kumar Channa, 58, who is considering selling his stall in a Little India hotel, as most of his revenue is from alcohol sales. "Many tourists come in the evening, they want a drink at the end of the day. They are all shocked that they can't get one."

Shopowner Balan Kabilan, 34, sold less than $200 of alcohol on Thursday, compared with the

usual $1,000. He asked: "How can we sell enough to make the rental? They are killing the shops."

Restaurants and pubs can still serve alcohol as late as their licences allow. But some are hit too.

A coffee shop owner, who wanted to be known only as Mr Koh, said takeaway alcohol forms up to 30 per cent of his sales.

At Spice Box restaurant in Kerbau Road, 10 per cent of sales come from alcohol on weekdays, and 20 per cent on weekends.

Its owner, Mr Ramesh Gowda, 40, said the restaurant saw the usual crowd of sit-down diners and drinkers, but its takeaway sales of both beer and food fell. He estimated a 10 to 15 per cent drop in business last night. "Some of the customers said that if they couldn't get takeaway beer, they wouldn't get food either," he said.

Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association chairman Rajakumar Chandra said the new curbs have continued putting pressure on retailers in Little India since the December 2013 riot and the resulting measures.

Some merchants have sublet part of their shop space, stocked less alcohol and more of other products, or gone into a different line of business, he said.

Even non-alcohol-related businesses have suffered because of smaller crowds, he added.

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