A BILL introduced in parliament on Monday proposed a nation-wide ban on the sale and public consumption of alcohol between 10.30pm and 7am.
This draft law also contains provisions that will put designated areas in Little India and Geylang under stricter regulations than elsewhere in the matters of the public sale and consumption of alcohol.
The proposed island-wide ban on the public consumption of alcohol is aligned with the closing time of most businesses in residential areas, and the time at which most community and grassroots events end.
The proposed restriction will apply to all public places in Singapore for clarity of compliance and enforcement; it will also minimise "displacement problems", that is, the practice of people migrating to another area to continue drinking.
Organisers of events held in public places may, however, apply for a permit for exceptions to these restrictions for a specific place and time; extension of retail sale hours for take-away liquor beyond 10.30pm may be granted on a case-by-case basis.
Members of the public may, however continue to consume liquor at home during the restricted hours, and at approved events and within licensed premises such as restaurants, coffee shops or bars, in accordance with the hours stipulated in their permits or licences.
The Bill proposes to give the police the power to intervene early and take necessary action to preserve public order and and to keep away disamenities arising from public drunkenness. In other words, the police will have the clout to direct drunk individuals creating annoyance to leave the public place and to dispose of their liquor.
The Ministry of Home Affairs said that in developing this proposed legislation, it had studied liquor-control measures in cities in Australia, the US and the UK. It noted that many of these cities have, for some time already, enforced restrictions on retail sale for take-away liquor and the consumption of liquor in public places, and that their laws were significantly more restrictive than those proposed in this Bill.
The government may also designate an area as a Liquor Control Zone if there is significant risk of public disorder associated with excessive consumption of liquor. Stricter restrictions on the retail sale hours of take-away liquor and the consumption of liquor in public places in such zones, substantially similar to those applied in Little India under the Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Act, will be enforced in these zones.
Liquor-related offences committed within such a zone will result in an enhanced penalty 1 1/2 times that in non-designated areas. Police may also bar persons from being in a Liquor Control Zone for a specified period of time if they are suspected of committing or having committed liquor-related offences such as consuming liquor in a public place during the restricted hours and being drunk there.
Based on the police's current operational assessment, specified areas in Little India and Geylang will be designated Liquor Control Zones.
Existing legal provisions related to public drunkenness will be transferred from current laws such as the Penal Code and the Miscellaneous Offences (Public Order and Nuisance) Act to the new legislation.
Liquor-licensing provisions will also be transferred from the Customs Act to the new legislation.
The Minister of Home Affairs will appoint a Licensing Officer to make regulatory decisions, and a Liquor Appeal Board will hear appeals against regulatory decisions.
Penalties for licensing-related offences will be enhanced as the police will be empowered to temporarily close licensed premises, issue directions to owners of premises or suspend their licences if the continued operation of the premises poses a significant threat to public safety or if severe offences involving violence or public disorder have been committed on the premises.
The Bill will be debated in parliament on its second reading at a subsequent date.
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