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Small number of pubs allowed to resume business in Dec under pilot trials
A "small number" of nightlife establishments will be allowed to resume business as early as next month under trials, while those that decide to pivot or exit the industry altogether will receive financial assistance, said the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday.
“The pilots aim to establish the viability and robustness of stringent safe management measures that will be required to be put in place, and the nightlife industry’s ability to comply with them, before the government considers allowing any further resumption of nightlife businesses,” they said in a joint statement.
The authorities told The Business Times that the pilot is expected to start with the participation of up to 10 bars and pubs, 10 karaoke establishments, and five nightclubs. But the actual number of establishments that may resume under the pilot will depend on the industry’s response and the suitability of the applications.
Establishments will first be nominated by the Singapore Nightlife Business Association and the Singapore Entertainment Affliation respectively, and then assessed by the two ministries.
MTI and MHA will consider the establishments’ proposals to implement the prescribed safe management measures, and their profile or type of business to “ensure diversity” among the establishments participating in the pilot.
They may also consider establishments with “economic or social significance that are strongly supported by other government agencies”, such as the Singapore Tourism Board.
The trial for pubs and bars will start by December and last for two months.
Karaoke lounges and nightclubs under the pilot initiative will reopen by January next year. They are given more time to prepare as they must ensure that all customers entering their premises have tested negative for Covid-19 in the 24 hours before.
However, the trial for karaoke lounges and nightclubs will last longer, for three months. This is because more time is required to assess the industry's readiness to reopen, "in view of the much higher risks and the more stringent safe management measures required in these settings".
Regardless, all establishments under the trials will have to comply with safety rules set by the government. Those in breach of the rules will face penalties under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020 and may be removed from the pilot. And if a Covid-19 cluster emerges at the establishments, the authorities may suspend or terminate the trials.
The rules include ensuring that all customers wear masks at all times - even on the dance floor or while singing - except while eating and drinking. Also, alcohol cannot be sold, served or consumed after 10.30pm.
Finally, CCTVs must be deployed and activated at all times, to cover all parts of the common areas and rooms used for the activities. Recordings must be stored for at least 28 days, for "regular reviews" by the enforcement agencies.
Yet, the ministries said, even if the trials "turn out well", it is expected that the nightlife industry will not resume operations as they used to for "a considerable period".
From now till March 31, 2021, nightlife operators that choose to pivot to other activities can apply for a grant of up to S$50,000 from Enterprise Singapore (ESG) to defray qualifying costs incurred during the process, such as for equipment and third-party consultancy. ESG said it is prepared to extend this support to nightlife establishments that had taken the initiative to pivot earlier on a case-by-case basis.
For the same period, firms that choose to exit the industry can also apply to ESG for an ex-gratia payment of S$30,000 to defray the costs of business cessation.
But nightlife establishments will only be eligible for either one of the financial support packages. And if they receive either of the packages, they will not be allowed to participate in the pilot programme nor any subsequent resumption of nightlife operations for at least a year.