Liquor Control Bill: Dorms get ready to handle more workers on weekends

Number of those staying in likely to rise with alcohol curbs in public places

Foreign worker dormitory operators are preparing for a rise in the number of residents staying in on the weekends, following proposed curbs on alcohol consumption in public places.

They are looking to expand sitting areas inside the dormitories and hire more security guards.

"Benches and chairs can be placed in and near the beer gardens and cafeterias to cater for more people," said Dormitory Association of Singapore president Kelvin Teo.

Mr Ken Lim, chairman of Singapore's biggest dormitory operator Vobis, said: "We will also need to deploy more security guards... around the beer gardens to deal with more human traffic."

The proposed ban on alcohol consumption in public places after 10.30pm does not extend to dormitories. However, the authorities can take action against people who are found in a drunken state on the premises.

The Ministry of Home Affairs also clarified that beer gardens and drink stalls in dormitories can continue to sell alcohol based on the timing stated in their liquor licences.

Most of these establishments have licences to sell alcohol until 11.59pm.

The spike in the number of people staying in is likely to occur only on Saturdays, when the workers go out to meet their friends, which sometimes includes drinking a few cans of beer.

But if the Bill is passed, then this will bring an end to such an activity and instead drive them back to the dormitories earlier.

"We will return to our dormitories earlier, by around 9pm or 10pm on Saturday, as we cannot drink in public places after 10.30pm. There is no problem," said construction foreman R. Jothinathan, 46.

Bengali newspaper Banglar Kantha's editor A. K.M. Mohsin said: "Workers cannot afford to pay for alcohol in pubs and coffee shops. It is also nice to sit outside as it is cooler. It is a pity that they cannot do this any more."

Mr Jolovan Wham, executive director of migrant workers group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics, said the law affects the low-income group most.

"The middle class can drink in their homes or can afford to drink in pubs which serve alcohol after 10.30pm. The poor and foreign workers do not have such a choice," said Mr Wham.

But some foreign workers said the new restrictions will encourage better behaviour.

"Sometimes workers stay out late and drink too much. Some get into trouble. I think workers will go back to their dorms earlier now and drink less. It is better this way," said Mr Shanmugam Mana Mohan, 36, a construction worker from India.