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Businesses in Little India in Singapore affected by restrictions on sale of alcohol

Partial ban came into effect after riots in December.

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By Mariam Thomas

SINGAPORE: Businesses in Singapore’s Little India complain that cut in hours and days alcohol is sold, after the country’s worst riots in 40 years, has hurt their takings.

The restrictions on alcohol sales was implemented following the riot on December 8th, 2013 when a 33 year-old man Sakthivel Kuaravelu was fatally struck by a private bus in the precinct of Little India- home to many Indian-owned businesses, restaurants, and bars.

The partial ban, imposed by POPA (Public Order Preservation Act), allows stores with retail and wholesale permits to sell alcohol for a shorter time period, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the eve of public holidays, and on weekends.

The partial ban, according to police, was implemented to improve the situation in Little India as well as preventing similar public order disturbances from taking place in the future.

Backpackers’ Hostel used to generate between S$1,000 to S$2,000 ($783 to $1,566) on an average day; however, some days after the ban revenue decreased to S$200 dollars a day. Cynthia Maniam, the manager, states that in the weeks following the ban, “business declined sharply by 80%.”

She says the problem with restricting alcohol sales is “that not only affects the alcohol sales, but rooms booked as well because customers would rather stay at a place that allows alcohol on premises.”

When she was asked what she thought about the ban, she said,” It doesn’t seem fair. If this happened in Lucky Plaza, would they band alcohol from businesses in a 2km radius? I don’t think so.”

At one local convenience store, which relies heavily on liquor sales for its income, profits are still dipping. Kumar Senthil Natarajan, the owner, said, “of course, it’s hurting business. During the first few weeks there was a stark drop of 70% in profit during the week and 50% during the weekend. It’s got a little better now but we went from selling two to three cartons of alcohol to two to three bottles.”

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