Ten restaurants at Robertson Quay have been barred from selling alcohol for takeaway, after people were found socialising and flouting safe distancing measures at the riverside dining enclave.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) told The Straits Times yesterday that these restaurants had been selling takeaway alcohol to patrons, "which had contributed to more individuals gathering around these premises".
"To prevent such gatherings from taking place, we have issued a written direction to these restaurants to cease the sale of takeaway alcohol with immediate effect," said a URA spokesman. "Any contravention of such directions is an offence and we will not hesitate to take such parties to task."
While alcohol takeaways are barred, customers can still have alcohol delivered to their homes.
The directive came a day after a Facebook post showing several photos of people failing to stay at least 1m from one another in the waterfront neighbourhood went viral. It has been shared about 2,000 times since Saturday evening.
Most of the people pictured were not wearing masks, while some had their masks lowered as they spoke to one another. The photos, taken by a recruitment manager in her 40s who wanted to be known only as Ms Tan, were later shared on Facebook by a friend who goes by the handle Lectress Pat.
Ms Tan, who was exercising in the area, told ST she took the photos around 6.30pm on Saturday, after catching sight of the "alarming" crowds near the stretch of restaurants from Robertson Bridge to Alkaff Bridge.
People were sitting on the steps drinking and smoking, she said, and restaurants were selling beer in takeaway cups. "I didn't expect it to be so crowded, with no awareness of social distancing," she added.
Netizens, noting that the chic riverside area tends to draw an expatriate crowd, have been quick to suggest there might be "double standards" at play. Others called the people out on their behaviour, saying they were "selfish" and disrespectful of front-line workers.
URA said it has been doing regular patrols in areas such as the Central Business District, Singapore River - which includes Robertson Quay - and conservation districts.
While it found the majority of operators and individuals compliant with circuit breaker measures, nearly 30 fines and five closure orders have been issued in the past month to individuals and business operators, said the spokesman.
Tiong Bahru resident Joanna Fong, 36, who was cycling in the area around 6.30pm on Saturday, said: "It was like a square in Europe in summer. Everyone was drinking, with kids and families all sitting together."
"I was so angry... It's irresponsible," said the SPH Radio marketing manager, adding that the crowds in the Robertson Quay area were a regular occurrence and it was "like a street festival... short of the music".
One of the businesses affected by the new directive is Tap Craft Beer.
While the logo and promotional board of one of its outlets were caught in one of Ms Tan's photos, general manager Daniel Yong has since clarified that the table in the picture - which had beer cups on it - does not belong to Tap. He said security camera footage showed that no one was drinking on the outlet premises on Saturday, but acknowledged that one of the people who bought a drink there could have stopped at a nearby table afterwards.
While business has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, Mr Yong said he supports URA's directive because "it's about keeping everybody safe".
Singapore has been in circuit breaker mode since last month, when tighter social distancing measures came into force to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Those who fail to comply with the rules will be fined $300 if they are first-time offenders.
Repeat offenders will face higher fines or prosecution in court for egregious cases.
URA urged people to comply with safe distancing measures and minimise trips out of their homes, as well as wear masks properly before and after strenuous exercise.
"We will not hesitate to take further enforcement action against business operators if we find other infringements of safe distancing measures," said its spokesman.
"Similarly, individuals found to be in breach of safe distancing measures will also be fined."