Government agencies have conducted daily enforcement checks on food and beverage outlets (F&B) and revolving entertainment venues since October last year, inspecting about 400 stores at each operation, police and the Ministry of Sustainability and Environment (MSE) said. ) on Tuesday (20 July).
In a joint statement, authorities noted that more than 400 entertainment venues have received the food store or snack counter license from the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) and have temporarily switched to F&B operations.
“Many of these spindle arrangements are fully compliant. Others, disappointingly, have not been responsible,” they said.
The authorities added that since October last year, joint enforcement operations involving several government agencies and the police have also been conducted over 20 weekends and all public holidays.
“To date, agencies have issued about 100 closure orders on F&B stores, including about 40 revolving establishments, with about 10 repeat offenders.
“The operators also face further enforcement actions, including fines and prosecution in court,” they noted.
According to them, SFA has permanently withdrawn the licenses of three pivotal sites since a stricter sanctions regime was introduced in May this year, while four others are subject to their licenses being revoked pending investigations.
“Revolving entertainment venues breaches are responsible for the vast majority of repeated blatant breaches. SMM violations committed by this group of institutions are egregious and pose much greater risks to public health,” she added.
In addition, police said that between October last year and July 10 this year, they conducted a total of 202 operations against licensed public venues, including those that had switched to F&B, as well as unlicensed public venues.
They noted that these operations carried out 540 checks at such outlets, resulting in the detection of 58 violations of the Public Entertainment Act and Liquor Control Act and 595 violations of Safe Management Measures (SMM).
This has also led to the arrest of 142 people for various offences.
While the authorities noted that government agencies will continue to take enforcement action against errant points of sale, they stressed that business operators and customers must play their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Enforcement of irresponsible behavior is only one of the tools to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and we cannot rely on it alone nor expect it to fully guarantee compliance. There is a limit to what can be achieved with enforcement.
“Businesses and customers must play their part and adhere to the SMMs that have been put in place. Individual responsibility is more important and in fact the most effective and sustainable way for us to overcome COVID-19. We all have to play our part,” they said.
On October 20 last year, it was announced that entertainment venues would not be allowed to reopen in their original form for some time, because the nature of their activities carries a high risk of transmission of COVID-19.
Subsequently, on November 6 last year, the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and the Ministry of the Interior (MHA) announced a pilot program for the entertainment industry to allow a limited number of entertainment venues to reopen with strict safe management measures (SMMs).
The pilot program was postponed until further notice in January 2021, amid a rise in intercourse cases, but entertainment venues operating as F&B stores were allowed to continue operating.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health (MOH) recently announced that all entertainment venues that had switched to F&B activities will be suspended from July 16 to July 30, amid spikes in COVID-19 cases in the KTV cluster.
The KTV cluster has grown to a total of 207 cases since Tuesday, first announced on July 12. The index case was a Vietnamese hostess on a short visit pass sponsored by her “boyfriend” to come to Singapore.
Netizens accuse authorities of “apologizing”
Many internet users wrote their thoughts under the comment section of Channel News Asia’s Facebook post on the matter, criticizing the authorities for “apologizing”, noting that enforcement actions are “more critical” than hoping the outlet operators would act responsibly. .
One internet user wrote: “Please stop apologizing. Either you have cops at 5:30 to do the check, or they’ve just gone through the motion. How else has the KTV cluster become our nightmare.”
Another internet user emphasized that there was “no emphasis on wanting to do better” in the authorities’ statement, as they seem to blame nightlife operators.
A total of 32 KTV lounges have been robbed so far
Police have raided a total of 32 KTV lounges so far, including the operation against illegal nightspots and revolving KTV lounges that act as F&B stores.
The first operation was conducted on July 13, involving three rotating KTVs acting as F&B stores along South Bridge Road, Selegie Road and Geylang Road.
20 women of different nationalities were arrested on suspicion of involvement in sex-related activities within the three KTVs. They are between 20 and 34 years old.
The three CTVs are also under investigation for breaches of secure controls, as the operators had allegedly provided hostess services in their premises. One of the outlets is also said to have offered dice games, a prohibited entertainment activity under the ordinance.
The second raid took place on July 16, with a total of 27 twisted KTV lounges being policed in an island-wide anti-crime operation from July 13 to July 15.
Of the 27 points of sale, 11 were found to have violated safe control measures.
281 persons were checked during the operation and 29 women were arrested for violations under the Women’s Charter, the Immigration Act and the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act.
Of these 29 women, 10 will be deported for working without a valid work pass and having served as social hostesses in three revolving KTV lounges that act as F&B stores.
The latest raid was made on unlicensed public entertainment venues on July 17, involving two outlets along Selegie Road and Tagore Lane.
Police noted that it was believed in both units that public entertainment and spirits were being provided without a permit. Karaoke equipment, liquor bottles and beer cans found at both units were seized for investigation.
A total of 39 people were found socializing in the illegal entertainment units, three of whom were men – believed to be the operators of the outlets – were arrested for supplying liquor without a license.
While the other 36 individuals – 16 men and 20 women, aged between 20 and 38 – are under investigation for alleged non-compliance with safe distance measures.
Questions should be asked about the police’s “daily enforcement checks”
Interestingly, however, police said a total of 540 checks were carried out on such premises between October and 10 July this year, which authorities had claimed were “daily enforcement checks”.
Given that there were 263 days in that period, we can only conclude that two to three outlets were checked daily.
But given the number of recent police raids – 32 revolving nightspots raided between July 13 and July 17 – it’s clear they can’t handle more than a number of consecutive checks in one day.
The “daily enforcement checks” still sounded far-fetched, even if we cut out the 20 weekends and holidays.
It is noteworthy that authorities have claimed that about 100 closure orders have been issued to F&B stores to date, including about 40 revolving establishments. However, it remains uncertain whether these numbers include recent raids and closures.
In addition, an earlier report of a new restaurant being mistaken for a revolving entertainment center raised the question of whether police know which establishments they monitor, as their list of revolving entertainment venues turned out to be outdated.
It was previously reported that a new restaurant was mistaken for a revolving nightlife and had to close in less than an hour on a busy Friday night.
In a letter published Tuesday (July 20) on The Straits Times (ST) Forum, restaurant owner Goh Tong Hann claimed plainclothes police officers came to his restaurant on Friday night and asked his staff to halt operations.
“We had less than an hour to do that. When I probed further, I got three responses: ‘Have you not seen the new regulations?’, ‘Didn’t SFA (Singapore Food Agency) send you a message?’ and ‘You’re on the list I have’.”
One of the officers then handed them a leaflet, which was addressed to “entertainment venues that turned to F&B establishments”.
Since “it was clear that the actions were the result of misinformation,” Mr Goh decided not to close the restaurant that evening, until the officers returned at 10 p.m. to close the restaurant.
“While I fully understood why we might have been put on that list, I expected SFA and SPF to have done their homework before embarking on their sting operation.
“From a BizFile+ account and bank accounts from an Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority to changing the use of the property and having an SFA license, all our documents were new.
“A simple search would have revealed that we were in no way related to the previous occupants of the unit,” said the new restaurant owner.
Mr Goh claimed the officers would have been greeted by a large open kitchen at the front of the restaurant, adding that it would have been apparent that the people at the tables were eating full meals rather than snacks.
“We are certainly not a disguised entertainment center,” he emphasized.
Police then called Mr Goh on Saturday night to officially allow the restaurant to remain open.