Some restaurants penalised for breaching Covid-19 measures say they were unaware of offences

Zam Zam at North Bridge Road on Feb 10, 2021.
Zam Zam at North Bridge Road on Feb 10, 2021.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Several of the 12 restaurants which were penalised for breaching Covid-19 measures during stepped-up enforcements last week claimed on Wednesday (Feb 10) that the measures were unclear, or they were unaware of their offences.

Mr Mohammed Yusoff Hussein, manager of Zam Zam restaurant in North Bridge Road, which has been ordered to close for 10 days from Tuesday, told The Straits Times: "Different safe distancing ambassadors have told us different things... In the morning, a safe distancing ambassador can say that our restaurant is okay but in the afternoon, another might request for something to be changed."

The Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) said the Indian-Muslim restaurant seated different groups of diners less than 1m apart on Feb 5. The outlet was fined on two previous occasions in May and December last year for breaching safe management measures (SMM).

"We were issued a summon by hand on Feb 8 at around 3.30pm asking us to close the next day; this gave us very little time to inform our customers who have made bookings for Chinese New Year," said Mr Yusoff.

He added that the order to close left him confused, as the restaurant had taken precautions to comply with the SMM after it was fined twice prior.

Mr Yusoff said his employees have been reminded to ensure that tables and chairs are placed at least 1m apart at the start and end of the day. He added that since December, two tables were removed to seat fewer than 30 people in each section. Previously, each dining area could take about 60 customers.

"All I ask is for safe distancing officers to give us the right information to follow... They always seem to check on us and not the neighbouring shops," he said.

Over at Ding Garden in New Bridge Road, which was ordered to close from Feb 6 to 15 for seating 13 diners from different households across three tables on Feb 5, an employee who wanted to be known as Ms Lin told ST that she was ignorant about the regulations when accepting the booking for this group of diners, who were fined $300 each.

"I misunderstood that groups of more than eight, who did not mingle, were allowed to be seated at different tables," said Ms Lin.

Under phase three rules, restaurants are not allowed to accept reservations or walk-ins for groups with more than eight people, even if they are split across multiple tables.

When informed of the order to close for 10 days on the day of the breach, Ding Garden had to cancel bookings for more than 60 tables over two days during the Chinese New Year period.

"We sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused to our customers, who had to scramble to make alternative arrangements for their reunion dinners," she added.

When contacted, an employee at Wangzi Music Restaurant, which was ordered to close for 20 days, would only say that she would get her manager to call back.

Other affected eateries including Ah Yat Seafood Restaurant, which had to shut its outlet at 200 Turf Club Road from Wednesday to Feb 19, declined to comment.

When ST visited the restaurant on Wednesday evening, a sign said the closure was due to "malfunction of the kitchen equipment".


When ST visited Ah Yat Seafood Restaurant in Turf Club Road, a sign said the closure was due to "malfunction of the kitchen equipment". ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

A spokesman for Crystal Jade Jiang Nan at VivoCity, which was ordered to close till Feb 19, said the restaurant has arranged for 80 per cent of its customers to dine at other outlets on Chinese New Year Eve.

The remaining customers have opted for takeaways or dining vouchers.

"We are deeply apologetic to customers who are affected by this closure and our team will be in touch shortly with regard to upcoming reservations," he said,

"Customers who have ordered takeaway items can still pick up their orders on their chosen date and time."