Enforcement officers out in force on first weekend since Singapore's dine-in ban is lifted

Various food and beverage establishments were inspected by enforcement officers on June 25, 2021.
Various food and beverage establishments were inspected by enforcement officers on June 25, 2021.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Enforcement officers were out in force in Chinatown on Friday night (June 25), at the start of the first weekend since the ban on dining in to curb the spread of Covid-19 was lifted at the beginning of the week.

Their operation, which covered about 20 businesses, saw two food and beverage (F&B) establishments fined and ordered to close for breaches of safe management rules.

Unlike safe distancing ambassadors who merely advise members of the public and business owners to adhere to safe management measures, enforcement officers have the right to issue penalties for breaches.

The Straits Times tagged along with a team of officers on Friday night, visiting seven food and beverage (F&B) establishments within a span of more than two hours.

During that time, one business was investigated for having a group of four dining together - two more than the current rules allow for. When ST left the location at about 9.30pm on Friday, statements from the patrons and staff at the outlet were still being taken.

The outlet - Vola Kitchen and Bar in 34 Pagoda Street - was later issued a $1000 fine and ordered to close for 10 days from June 26 to July 5 for failing to ensure that customers consuming food and/or drink in the premises kept to groups of not more than two.

Four persons were also issued fines of $300 each for dining in a group of more than two.

Meanwhile, of the other six F&B establishments inspected, one was issued a warning for broadcasting a television programme, something not permitted under current rules. Another two were advised to move their furniture farther apart, to prevent any breach of the 1m gap required between groups of diners.

By the end of the operation, the enforcement officers had visited about 20 establishments in Chinatown.

One more restaurant, Shu-Kuu Sakaba in 8 Stanley Street, was issued a $1000 fine and ordered to close for 10 days for failing to ensure 1m distancing between groups of seated customers. It will be closed from June 25 to July 4.

Enforcement officers from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), which oversees safe distancing in tourism precincts such as Orchard Road, Chinatown and Little India, as well as tourism businesses, typically work in teams of five.

STB lead enforcement officer John (not his real name for operational reasons) said that prior to moving out, the officers will identify the businesses they intend to visit based on feedback given by the public and by safe distancing ambassadors.

At each outlet, two officers typically enter first and identify themselves and explain the purpose for their visit, before proceeding to look for any breaches. Should these be identified, statements are then taken from patrons and/or staff, depending on the nature of the offence.

In a statement on June 18, the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE), which coordinates the enforcement of safe management measures across the country, said agencies would step up the enforcement of such rules when dining in was allowed to resume.

John said that this meant increasing the frequency of inspections for areas under STB's purview, but he was unable to divulge details, to protect the integrity of operations.

One establishment was issued a warning for broadcasting a TV programme, something not allowed under current rules. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

He added that since dining in was allowed from Monday, F&B outlets the STB inspected were generally compliant, with the rules still fresh in the minds of staff.

He also urged the public to be patient and understanding, adding that he understood that inspections can be disruptive for businesses and customers.

John said that since he started doing enforcement work from April last year, most F&B staff have been cooperative and facilitated checks.

However, some resorted to using delaying tactics, even using safe distancing rules to slow down officers from entering their premises, such as using temperature checks as an excuse for delaying access.