SINGAPORE - Crowds that gathered to see the fights at Holland Village on the first night of phase two reopening were not customers, said the general manager of restaurant British Indian Curry Hut, which was ordered to close for not ensuring safe distancing measures.
Images and videos circulated on social media over the weekend show scenes of overcrowding at the restaurant along Lorong Mambong after two fights broke out last Friday (June 19) night.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) said the restaurant had failed to ensure that safe management practices were adhered to, and ordered it to close last Saturday.
Speaking to The Straits Times on Monday, the restaurant's general manager Khader Basha Ghouse Basha, 38, said the fights broke out at around 8pm and 9.30pm last Friday, during which crowds gathered in front of his and other restaurants in the vicinity.
"Unfortunately, my customers moved their chairs and tables to avoid the spillover from the fights, and once the situation was over, our customers stayed put in their seats," he said, leading to them not adhering to safe distancing rules.
He added: "The two fights did not start at our restaurant and as far as I am aware, my customers were not involved in the altercations.
"The crowd that had gathered in front of the restaurant main road was mistaken for my customers, which in turn made it seem like we had failed to maintain safe social distancing."
A photo circulating on social media shows groups of people sitting in the restaurant's outdoor seating area packed closely together, as well as crowds standing on the road outside the restaurant.
Mr Basha said that for its phase two reopening last Friday, it had implemented reserved dining and restricted walk-in diners, and ensured "compliance with the guidance given to us by the URA that included spacing the tables, implementing SafeEntry measures, and temperature taking and disinfecting of touch surfaces like tables and menus after use by customers".
"As for our restaurant, customers and staff, we did not overlook anything. Our compliance was thorough."
Mr Basha said that pre-Covid-19, the restaurant, which opened in 2014, had an indoor capacity of 80, with seating for another 25 to 30 outdoors. With safe distancing measures in place, that capacity is now 45 indoors, and 15 to 18 outdoors.
The restaurant will be allowed to do takeaways this week and open for dine-in from June 29, "provided it has shown that it is able to implement safe management measures for its customers", said the URA.
The police said that three people have been arrested for the fights last Friday night: a 26-year-old man who reeked of alcohol and was causing annoyance to the public at 21 Lorong Mambong, and two 22-year-old Singaporean men for their suspected involvement in a case of affray at the same location.
ST understands the arrests were connected to a fight which was captured in a video clip showing a group of people fighting along the stretch of eateries at Lorong Mambong last Friday.
Following the incidents, Lorong Mambong, which is usually closed to traffic every evening, is now open, to prevent people from gathering in the street.
The outdoor refreshment areas along the sidewalks for all restaurants along the stretch - areas which allow for outdoor dining and account for a large chunk of takings - have been removed to allow pedestrians to walk safely on the pavement.
Business operators in other popular dining and nightlife destinations in Singapore are not taking any chances.
While regular road closures at other car-free zones such as Circular Road in Boat Quay and Bussorah Street in Kampong Glam have been suspended since March 27 - as part of measures to minimise the risk of further spread of Covid-19 - areas along the Singapore River have reopened for business.
Singapore River One (SRO), which manages the Singapore River precinct including Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay, said it has been working with the various government agencies to prepare for phase two.
SRO executive director Michelle Koh said: "From the onset, we have sent safe management reminders and advisories to our stakeholders to adhere strictly to prevailing guidelines on safe distancing.
"We will continue to monitor the situation closely and work collaboratively with our stakeholders to ensure the safety and health of their staff and patrons."
Around 70 per cent of businesses in the Singapore River precinct have been allowed to reopen since last Friday.
Ms Koh said of the first weekend of reopening: "The turnout was encouraging but definitely lower than pre-Covid-19... We believe most people are still cautious and taking preventive measures to avoid public areas."