Nightspot operators back tighter curbs, raise some issues

Nightspots and eateries at Clarke Quay.
Nightspots and eateries at Clarke Quay.PHOTO: ST FILE

Should "suitably trained" authorised persons, instead of the police, be able to conduct inspections on entertainment spots? Are businesses responsible for incidents outside their establishments?

These issues were raised by entertainment outlet operators yesterday, a day after a Bill was passed to tighten controls on errant outlets, while maintaining a "lighter touch" for law-abiding ones.

Mr Dennis Foo, president of the Singapore Nightlife Business Association, called the Public Entertainments and Meetings (Amendment) Bill a "positive step" in raising standards and helping to weed out errant operators.

There were over 600 licensing breaches last year, committed by some 20 per cent of 2,700 operators here. Breaches have been "relatively constant since 2014" at about 600 a year, said the Home Affairs Ministry.

Operators The Straits Times spoke to generally support the Bill, but some asked for more clarity and urged that a new law, requiring all nightclubs to install closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras at entrances and exits, come sooner.

On Monday, Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin said the authorised persons are subject to "supervisory controls" by the police, and the Bill allows the police flexibility in deploying manpower.

Security consultant Ben Wong, 49, who works with eight clubs here, expressed concern over the affiliation of such persons.He said the clubs he works with take further measures, like having security staff at entrances carry pocket cameras to record incoming guests, and taking down particulars on a case-by- case basis.

While scuffles are not uncommon at clubs, it is crucial that staff help to pre-empt incidents.

Shanghai Dolly managing director Gordon Foo, 35, said: "It's about our staff being alert, stepping in, calling the police, and taking the parties aside to cool down."

While training personnel and installing CCTV cameras may incur costs, Mr Foo said this is outweighed by the long-term benefit of safety.

In Parliament, MPs Lee Bee Wah and Melvin Yong said nightclub operators should be held responsible for brawls outside their premises.

In March, a 35-year-old man was stabbed to death at nightlife complex St James Power Station. Four men have since been charged with his murder, one of whom was a part-time waiter at Postbar.

The Postbar owner, who wanted to be known only as Ms Daisy, said responsibility cannot lie solely on operators to prevent incidents. "When incidents happen, we take the group out of the club as we don't want anyone in the club to be hurt. Some listen, sober up and go back in to party. But some say, 'We're not on your premises anymore; we can do whatever we want.' "

Last year, there were 38 incidents of violent crime at entertainment spots, including causing serious hurt and rioting.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2017, with the headline 'Nightspot operators back tighter curbs, raise some issues'. Print Edition | Subscribe