SINGAPORE - Nine family-style karaoke businesses have come together to petition the authorities to give them a separate classification from the types associated with the KTV lounges linked to a growing Covid-19 cluster.
The petition, titled "Separate family karaoke from nightclubs and KTV with hostess and allow us to operate safely", was started on Thursday (July 15) on petition website Change.org
It urges the Government to create a new "family karaoke" category, so that they are not classified under "cabarets, nightclubs, discotheques, dance clubs and karaoke lounges".
This comes in the wake of the backlash against KTV lounges and nightclubs with social hostesses, which have been identified as venues where there is likely ongoing transmission of Covid-19.
"Lumping us together in the overly broad nightlife category is not justifiable," said the petition, signed by 7th Heaven KTV & Cafe, Sing My Song Family Karaoke, K Voice Family Karaoke, Teo Heng KTV, 8 Degree Lounge, Major 99, HaveFun Karaoke, K Star and Cash Studio.
It added: "Our clientele are mainly youth and families, and daytime hours form the bulk of our operating hours. Our layout is also different, consisting of mainly small rooms whose occupants never intermingle. This layout is highly compatible with safe distancing."
Public entertainment licences for establishments are handled by the police.
The petition had garnered more than 3,500 signatures by 11pm on Friday.
Hoping to resume business sooner, the nine outlets have also called for the creation of a pilot scheme that would allow them to operate under strict safety measures. This could include opening karaoke rooms only to those who have been fully vaccinated, or those who undergo pre-event testing, the petition proposed.
This comes after a pilot programme by the Government to reopen nightlife establishments was put on hold in January after a spike in community cases.
Restrictions have already taken a toll on family karaoke outlets, whose numbers have been whittled down from more than 50 before Covid-19 hit in March last year, to fewer than 20 left standing.
In May, major karaoke chain Manekineko closed all eight of its outlets here.
Others like Cash Studio and Teo Heng pivoted their businesses to reopen as work and study rooms or food and beverage outlets to stay afloat.
However, some operators feel this is no longer sustainable.
"It's been too long - nearly 16 months - since the authorities have prohibited entertainment outlets such as ours to operate, while venues like cinemas and arcades have reopened," noted Mr Flint Lu, founder of HaveFun Karaoke, which has six outlets islandwide.
He said any delays in reopening entertainment, despite more Singaporeans and residents getting vaccinated, will result in "more difficult and dangerous situations".
"The longer the Government chooses to not open up, the higher chance of smaller operators opening up illegally," he said.
The Straits Times has contacted the Singapore Entertainment Affiliation, which represents karaoke operators, for comment.