BY MARISSA LEE AND LESTER HIO, Straits Times
A SHARP increase in rowdy behaviour and large crowds at Tekka Centre’s hawker centre on the weekends is prompting the police to ask stall owners to stop selling bottled beer.
This is to reduce the risk of glass bottles being used as weapons in fights, explained the Singapore Police Force.
The move comes after an incident last month when a drunk man struck a 19-year-old busboy from behind with a broken glass bottle, and fled into the night.
Drinks vendor Maureen Ho, 42, said: “The police met us last week and told us that since people here often break bottles to start fights, we should ban bottles for three months and see if there are fewer fights.”
But stall owners doubt if a no-bottles initiative will help.
“Even if we don’t sell bottles, who’s to stop them from bringing their own drinks here?” said drinks vendor Madam Ho Ah Hiang, 50, pointing to the shards of a liquor bottle on the ground.
The situation has become so bad on Sunday evenings that security officers use a barrier mesh to prevent foreign workers from overcrowding the open space in the middle of the hawker centre floor.
But outside of Tekka Centre, the Public Order (Additional Temporary Measures) Act has left the streets of Little India much more subdued.
Since the Act was enforced in April, licensed shops can sell alcohol only up to 8pm on weekends, public holidays and eves of public holidays. Alcohol also cannot be consumed in public places.
Small businesses which sell alcohol have been hit hard, with many shop owners worried that they may not survive the one-year ban.
Mr Annai Velu, 52, who has run his provision shop in Race Course Road for more than 15 years, said that his business is down by more than 90 per cent.
“We are more and more frustrated. One year is too long a period. If they don’t do anything, we also will close.”
Liquor shops are not the only ones which are suffering. Mrs Zul Amreen, 31, who runs a provision shop near her home in Klang Lane, said: “There is no crowd! Cigarettes, cool drinks, water – not moving. We used to sell water by the cartons on Saturdays and Sundays.” She hopes the alcohol ban will be lifted next year.
Other businesses such as travel agencies and hotels say the ban has made the area more peaceful and conducive for business, and want to see it extended after it expires on March 31 next year.
Ms Rizwana Sahul Hameed, 25, who works at Coral Retreat and Holidays in Dunlop Street, said business has been up 60 per cent since the ban started.
“There are more locals and families walking in and making reservations because it’s quieter and not as crowded as before,” she said.
Residents in the area also want the ban to remain.
There has been an “overwhelming request by residents to ensure that restrictions… remain, especially in the public housing areas”, said MP for Moulmein-Kallang GRC Denise Phua.
“These appeals are fair. They are simply asking for the use of a safe, clean and alcohol-free designated communal living space,” she said.
The streets are cleaner now too, said resident Miniam K. Supramaniam, with less rubbish such as beer bottles being dumped on the street.
“It used to be so noisy and dirty. There was broken glass on the road on Monday mornings – very dangerous for children,” said the 58-year-old technician.