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    Jan 20, 2015

    Bill to curb alcohol sales draws mixed reactions

    PROPOSED laws to ban drinking in public places, including parks and common areas in Housing Board estates, from 10.30pm to 7am could prove unpopular with young clubbers, but have been welcomed by residents living near entertainment districts.

    The late-night happenings around Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay have caused many living there to complain about the noise and littering that takes place on weekends and on Wednesday's Ladies' Nights.

    When The Straits Times visited the area on Friday night, as many as 500 people - mostly adults in their early 20s - were drinking in public, having bought alcohol from shops such as nearby 7-Eleven stores.

    Clubbers said they preferred to get a buzz first from cheaper alcohol bought from convenience stores, before heading to clubs where drinks are more expensive.

    Even at midnight, there were long queues for drinks at these stores, which currently cannot sell alcohol between 3am and 6am.

    The Liquor Control Bill introduced in Parliament yesterday will bar retail shops from selling take-away alcohol after 10.30pm.

    "It would make sense to impose a ban in certain areas, but imposing it islandwide would be harsh," said full-time national serviceman Evan Choi, 21.

    But residents there said that they welcome the proposed Bill. A resident of Watermark condominium in Robertson Quay who wanted to be known as Mr Tan, 42, said: "There are broken glass and a lot of littering on Wednesdays and weekends. The restrictions will help address the problem."

    Under the proposed Bill, first-time drink offenders could be fined up to $1,000, and repeat offenders risk paying a maximum of $2,000 or imprisonment of up to three months, or both.

    If a person is found trespassing or appearing in a public place while drunk and causing annoyance to another, he could face slightly stiffer penalties: a fine of up to $1,000 or jail time of up to six months, or both.

    News of the proposed Bill was greeted with dismay by Geylang shop owners.

    Currently, many can sell alcohol until midnight.

    But Geylang retailers will be hit doubly hard if the Bill is passed. Part of the area will be a Liquor Control Zone, where there will be further restrictions similar to those in place at Little India following the riot in December 2013.

    In Little India now, licensed shops can sell alcohol only up to 8pm on weekends, public holidays and the eve of public holidays.

    All 10 retailers in Geylang contacted by The Straits Times said that most of their alcohol sales occur between 9pm and midnight. Foreign workers, who make up a bulk of their customers, typically return to their dormitories after work to freshen up and have dinner, before heading out for a drink at about 9pm.

    Deen Malim, 48, owner of Alfa's Mini-mart in Geylang, said of the new Bill: "It's bad, it's very bad news." He added that alcohol sales make up half of his revenue.

    "When customers come to buy alcohol, they also buy other things like snacks. The sale of other items will also be affected."