SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - It was marketed as a bigger, hipper version of popular outdoor flea market Artbox.
But behind the picture-perfect decor at pop-up event Creative Millennials Youth Karnival (CMYK), things turned ugly last week after many food and beverage (F&B) vendors found out the hard way that they did not have licences to operate.
Some were shocked to receive a summons from the National Environment Agency (NEA) for being unlicensed, as they assumed the CMYK organiser had secured the licences.
The New Paper understands that more than 30 of the 70-plus F&B vendors who signed up for the event did not get a licence, despite submitting the required documents to the organiser ahead of time.
Held at the Bayfront Event Space in Marina Bay from last Thursday to Sunday, the event was expected to attract more than 500,000 people and make $5 million over the four days.
However, as some food stall operators were setting up shop last Thursday, NEA officers conducted the first of several enforcement operations.
Ms Haslinah Hashim, 31, who owns The Original Pisang Keju, told TNP that NEA officers came to her stall at about 5.30pm.
"(They said) my licence application was not approved. I was so shocked," she said.
An officer told her that she was not allowed to sell food without a valid licence and issued her a $300 fine.
Mr Lucas Lee, 29, who owns Hi Tea Singapore, said: "On the first day, NEA came around and asked for the certificates, but the organiser was not able to show them that we were licensed to operate."
Mr Lee said he had signed up for the event about a week earlier and submitted the necessary documents to the organiser at the same time.
He had previously taken part in similar events and never had an issue with licences.
In his experience, Mr Lee said, vendors would typically let the event organiser apply for the NEA licences on their behalf.
He added: "We thought that everything was okay, because (the CMYK organiser) did not give any feedback."
Several vendors also complained about the water supply and electricity being cut off several times over the four days, which affected their preparations before the fair opened at 3pm.
Replying to TNP's queries, the NEA said yesterday that it issued licences to 37 food stall operators before the event and another 18 licences later. It also reminded the fair operator that all food stalls must be licensed.
After conducting inspections from last Thursday to Sunday, the NEA said it took enforcement action against the fair operator for permitting unlicensed food stalls to operate.
Twenty-four enforcement actions were also taken against food stall operators for operating without a valid licence.
An NEA spokesman said that offenders are liable to a fine not exceeding $5,000 if convicted.
CMYK's website lists the event organiser as Hundred Plus Organizer, a Singapore-incorporated company from Thailand.
TNP understands that a local partner was hired to manage the event and had a hand in the submission of licence applications to NEA.
The various problems at the event resulted in several vendors venting their anger and frustrations at the organiser, TNP understands.
When approached at the company's registered address yesterday, the organiser, who declined to be named, said it accepted full responsibility for the issues that arose but needed time to resolve them. It declined to comment further.
TNP spoke to four vendors who did not get an NEA licence, and three said they had received full refunds, which included booth rental fees, additional fees for electrical points and the NEA fines.
All three said they lost thousands of dollars as a result of the licence mix-up, as they had paid for transport, manpower and raw ingredients only to find out they could not open for business.
But those who secured licences were happy with the turnout at the fair.
The owner of The Swag Social, who wanted to be known only as Ms Tay, 30, said there were some hiccups on the first couple of days, but sales over the weekend was brisk.
She added: "Actually, it was quite a well-marketed event. People came and the weather was good."