Buzz returns to live music and F&B venues on Day 1 of easing of Covid-19 curbs

Customers drink at Boat Quay at around 10.30pm on March 29, 2022. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY
Bartender Renu Sundaraja prepares drinks at Timbre X S.E.A at The Arts House at around 10pm, on March 29, 2022. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY
Diners at Wala Wala Cafe Bar enjoy drinks past 10.30pm on March 29, 2022, after the new easing of measures. ST PHOTO: LAUREN CHIAN
Customers Angela and Gareth at Chimichanga enjoying drinks shortly before 11pm on March 29, 2022. ST PHOTO: LAUREN CHIAN
Customers drink at Boat Quay at around 10.30pm on March 29, 2022. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY
Cover band Roseville performs at Timbre X S.E.A at The Arts House, on March 29, 2022. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY
Mr Paul Lawrence and his friends celebrate the first day of the easing of measures at The Pit Restaurant and Bar. ST PHOTO: LAUREN CHIAN

SINGAPORE - From live music sets to spontaneous 10.30pm countdowns and cheers, Singapore's nightlife got off to a relatively rousing return on Tuesday evening (March 29) as curbs were lifted on live entertainment and on the consumption of alcohol past 10.30pm at licensed establishments.

It was full house at Timbre X S.E.A at The Arts House in Old Parliament Lane, which kicked off its first night of a week of live music sets, when The Straits Times visited at around 8.30pm.

Around 130 diners were enjoying a set by home-grown cover band Roseville that started at 8pm. Pre-pandemic, and sans safe management measures, the venue could hold around 200 people at a time.

Several places around the city - including Le Noir at Marina Bay Sands and Molly Malone's in Circular Road - also resumed live music performances.

Some food and beverage outlets which used to stay open late saw better business as up to 10 fully vaccinated people could dine together in groups.

At Holland Village, staff at various outlets said they were busier than usual for a Tuesday night.

A manager at The Pit Restaurant & Bar, who wanted to be known only as Mr Murali, said he expects things to get into full swing this weekend. "I've spoken to a lot of my customers and they love it as they can spend more time (drinking). This Friday is going to be a little crazy," he said.

Among the customers was Mr Paul Lawrence, 55, who said he was there with a group of friends to commemorate the first day of the latest easing of Covid-19 rules and to show support for their regular hangout.

Mr Lawrence, who works in sales, said: "We're enjoying ourselves - being able to drink after 10.30pm is quite liberating.

"With places starting to open up late... we will probably need to get used to drinking outside after 10.30pm again as it's been so long."

Venues with live music like Timbre started applying for performance licences and calling up bands as soon as the lifting of curbs was announced last Thursday.

"The musicians were ready but nervous because they haven't been playing regularly... but it's so encouraging to have a full house on the first day," said Timbre Group chief executive Danny Loong.

"But the pandemic has changed the whole entertainment and nightlife scene... Some people have quit and some bars have closed, so now it's a matter of how we rebuild this again and make live music venues viable again," he added.

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Nightlife associations also cautioned their members about sticking to the rules that still apply.

In an advisory issued on Tuesday, the Singapore Nightlife Business Association reminded all nightlife businesses that have pivoted to become F&B outlets with valid licences "to stay vigilant and act responsibly".

"Regulatory agencies and authorities will not hesitate to (revoke) licences for non-compliant operators in breach of any safe management measures," it said.

The advisory added: "Pivoted nightlife establishments must ensure that no dancing of any kind between any number of persons take place within the premises."

Singapore River One (SRO), place manager of the Singapore River precinct - which comprises areas like Clarke Quay and Boat Quay - said it sends regular reminders to stakeholders to adhere to the prevailing safe management measures.

However, SRO noted that opening plans for businesses are tempered by operational issues.

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"From what we gathered from the ground, businesses will not be opening up their outlets in a big way as there are manpower resource issues to consider and plan for, in order to remain compliant with the rules," said a spokesman.

Still, there was no mistaking the lighter mood last night.

Just before 10.30pm, spontaneous countdowns broke out at several bars along Boat Quay, with customers cheering the lifting of rules.

Additional reporting by Lauren Chian

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