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    Jan 19, 2015

    Geylang eateries hit hard by alcohol rules

    MANY coffee shops in Geylang depend on beer drinkers, but business for some of them has fallen sharply, with the licences for some 40 coffee shops to sell alcohol being revoked.

    These coffee shops - which account for 42 per cent of alcohol licences in Geylang - were found to have repeatedly flouted licence conditions after many police crackdowns in the past year, Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao reported yesterday.

    After their licences were revoked, the coffee shops' turnover fell by 40 to 80 per cent. As a result, five coffee shops had to close down, while many have changed owners.

    Coffeeshop associations told Zaobao that they would meet the Ministry of Home Affairs to discuss the matter soon.

    Foo Jong Peng, chairman of the Kheng Keow Coffee Merchants Restaurant & Bar-Owners Association, said that after the Little India riot in December 2013, the police stepped up enforcement action in Geylang, with crackdowns almost every day.

    Geylang initially had 96 coffee shops selling alcohol and, from what Mr Foo understands, 40 of them have had their alcohol licences revoked.

    He added that some coffee shops did not publicise the loss of their alcohol licences, so he believes nearly half of the coffee shops no longer have such licences.

    In most of these cases, the coffee shops had sold alcohol to customers, who were also found drinking in the establishments, outside stipulated times.

    Hong Poh Hin, chairman of the Foochow Coffee Restaurant and Bar Merchants Association, said the licence for coffee shops to sell alcohol state that alcohol cannot be sold after midnight. Customers cannot consume alcohol in coffee shops after midnight too.

    Some people in the business told Mr Hong that if coffee shops are found to have beer bottles on their tables after midnight, they could be viewed as violating the rules as well.

    He said that the customers of the Geylang coffee shops largely drink alcohol.

    So, if the establishments do not sell beer, these customers will not come, which also affects the business of other stallholders at the coffee shops, he said.

    In August, Geylang beer sales fell by about 13,000 boxes a month, which translates to more than $1 million in lost sales.

    As to why some coffee shops in Geylang had repeatedly flouted alcohol licence conditions, Mr Hong explained that Geylang is an area that gets more "exciting" as the night gets longer.

    So, customers tend to patronise the coffee shops late and stay for long periods, especially on weekends. This means there can be many beer customers after midnight, he said.

    He added that there is also the problem of how business operators can get customers to finish their beer and remove the beer bottles before midnight.

    "If you try to urge customers to finish their beer quickly, there will certainly be unpleasant incidents," Mr Hong said.

    Mr Foo hoped that the authorities would give coffee shops a warning for flouting the rules, instead of only informing them that their alcohol licences would be revoked after they had repeatedly committed offences.