It's still happy hour for some in S'pore after 10.30pm, despite flouting Covid-19 rules

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From drinking alcohol in dark forested areas at night to blatantly overshooting the 10.30pm drinking time limit under the Safe Management Measures at coffeeshops, scores of people risk spreading the Covid-19 virus when they mingle in large groups.

SINGAPORE - The party continues past 10.30pm for some people despite the risk of being caught and penalised over breaching Covid-19 safety regulations, with a few coffee shops and eateries around the country turning into hangouts for a number of drinkers after they have closed for the night.

Checks by The Sunday Times from April found groups of people flouting the law for their alcohol fix. Often seen in public areas, they drink beyond the 10.30pm deadline set under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020.

A common tactic would see a coffee shop shuttered and the lights turned down while the drinking continues inside.

At a restaurant in Punggol, young adults were spotted consuming alcohol and vaping past the cut-off time.

In response to queries, the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment said that more than 12,000 fines had been issued to individuals for breaching safe distancing and safe management measures as well as committing mask-related offences from April last year to end-September this year.

In April, a pub off Upper Thomson Road appeared to be open all night. After 10.30pm, patrons continued to enter the outlet, which had its lights dimmed.

At Block 436 in Hougang Avenue 8, a void deck area used by senior citizens is occasionally taken over by men who savour wine chilled in a beer bucket.

Lower-floor residents said the loud conversations sometimes affect their sleep.

Earlier this month, Rumours Beach Club at Sentosa was fined $2,000 for hosting a gathering after 10.30pm, while eatery Greendot at Nex was fined $1,000 for failing to ensure safe distancing of at least 1m between groups of customers.

Individuals found to have breached the 10.30pm cut-off can be fined up to $1,000, and repeat offenders may be fined up to $2,000 or jailed up to three months, or both.

Staff at drinking spots said it is not easy to break up the party and tell patrons it is time to leave.

One beer promoter in Hougang who did not want to be named told ST that at closing time, she has to remind patrons that the coffee shop is about to close.

Five men take over a senior citizens' corner to drink wine chilled in a beer bucket in Hougang. ST PHOTO: ZAIHAN YUSOF

She said: "Most get the message (to leave) but some don't, more so when they're intoxicated."

Besides the 10.30pm cut-off, the group size limit for dining in is currently capped at two vaccinated individuals, and two individuals at social gatherings.

It is not just in the heartland that these laws are disregarded.

On two Saturday nights this month, large groups of men were spotted socialising and drinking on a bridge in Seletar North Link.

Unfazed by the recent higher daily new infected case numbers of more than 3,000, over 40 of them, believed to be foreign workers, sat in groups of five to eight. Empty beer cans and discarded food packets littered the area.

The spot is partially hidden from view due to a low wall. Aside from cyclists, joggers and passing heavy vehicles, few venture there. The occasional laughter and loud music from mobile phones could be heard.

On two Saturday nights this month, large groups of men were spotted socialising and drinking at a bridge at Seletar North Link. ST PHOTO: ZAIHAN YUSOF

One migrant worker, who gave his name as Mr Kumar, 30, said it was boring to stay in his dormitory, which is about 30m from the bridge. Pointing to PPT Lodge 1B, he added: "We have been through a lot. Having one drink or two will not hurt anybody."

Another worker, Mr Maniam, said there are limits to drinking in a beer garden within the dormitory.

"You can buy only two cans of beer and sit with one more person," Mr Maniam, 27, added. "Here, we can sit with more friends."

More beer arrived after workers placed orders via food delivery platforms. Legally, alcohol deliveries are not allowed in public areas.

By midnight, it got a little rowdy because many had had too much to drink. Men were seen taking wefies in the middle of the road, urinating at the side of the pavement and throwing empty beer cans on grass patches.

They all scrambled to their feet when they spotted an approaching police car.

Over a loudhailer, a police officer warned them to stop drinking and return to their dormitory.

Two pubs off Upper Thomson Road seemed to stay open despite the 10.30pm ruling against drinking. ST PHOTO: ZAIHAN YUSOF

Under the law, drinking alcohol in a public area after 10.30pm is illegal. Offenders can be jailed up to six months, fined up to $10,000, or both, said the police.

In reply to ST queries, a Ministry of Manpower (MOM) spokesman said migrant workers "who return to dormitories intoxicated may be issued warnings or face administrative penalties by dormitory operators, such as being barred from entering designated drinking areas for a certain period".

The police will continue to work with MOM and relevant stakeholders to conduct enforcement against any known breaches of the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Act 2015 and the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations 2020.

"The police have zero tolerance of irresponsible behaviour relating to the flouting of these measures and offenders will be dealt with firmly in accordance with the law," said the spokesman.

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