The Government’s plan to cut back over-the-counter sales of alcohol to 10.30pm daily has sparked an outcry, as some – including alcohol suppliers – asked if the annoyance caused by a minority of trouble drinkers warranted the imposition of sweeping curbs.
While they acknowledged that the proposed ban on boozing in public spaces after 10.30pm would reduce the incidences of alcohol-induced disamenities, members of the public felt that new problems could surface.
For instance, it could result in binge-drinking among more youth as they try to load up before sales stop. More cases of neighbourly disputes over noise from revellers who shift their parties back to their homes could be another problem, they said.
INDUSTRY PLAYERS RAISE CONCERNS
Meanwhile, in a joint statement on Monday (Jan 19), five retailers – including 7-Eleven, Cheers and FairPrice – and several manufacturers of alcohol and alcoholic beverages said that while they share the same concerns as the Government about disorder, safety and anti-social behaviour arising from public drinking, “effectively addressing the relevant social issues need not result in disproportionately penalising responsible consumers”.
Asia Pacific Breweries (Singapore) head of corporate communications Shannen Fong added: “We believe that the problem of irresponsible public drinking and/or public congregation will be primarily mitigated by the strict enforcement of the public-drinking time restriction and hence, need not deny responsible consumers, who are the majority in Singapore, the convenience of purchasing alcohol for home consumption after 10.30 pm.”
Instead, the industry players “strongly advocate a responsible culture in respect of liquor sales through the adoption of relevant voluntary actions”. For instance, they are planning to train and certify all retail store managers on the responsible sale of alcohol within the first year of the law coming into effect.
These players in the alcohol sales trade have also asked for greater clarity on the conditions under which applications for an extension of retail sales hours will be granted, saying this will “mitigate any disproportionate effects of the liquor-sale regulation”.
When contacted, a FairPrice spokesperson said the chain of Cheers convenience stores it owns will be hit harder if the law is passed, as it has more stores that operate 24 hours.
Alcohol sales may be affected by as much as 20 per cent, the spokesperson said, with its outlets in the central and town areas which currently experience good alcohol sales to be the most affected.
ROOM FOR DISCRETION?
Ms Theresa Sia, 24, said the cheaper price of alcohol at convenience stores is not the reason she drinks occasionally in public spaces. “Sometimes, it’s not that you choose to drink in public, but because the area that you are at has no pubs or bars and it’s more convenient to just bring your own bottles or buy from the nearby convenience stores,” she said.
Responding to the proposed law, Mr Baey Yam Keng, MP for Tampines GRC, said he does receive occasional complaints of people turning rowdy when they get drunk, but such instances are rare.
While the proposed law will make residents feel safer and create a more pleasant environment, how the authorities enforce the rules is important. “There is some discretion to be made ... some room for subjective adjustments and judgment,” he said.