Walking down Jiak Kim Bridge last weekend in the night, there was an unlikely sense of peace and serenity. Walkways are clear, the air is fresh, and the silence that fills the air would make this place the perfect spot for a romantic date.
That might seem like nothing to some, but just a few months ago, this had been a clubber hotspot for drinking and merry-making.
Noise disturbances and complaints of litter have plagued residents at nearby condominium Rivergate for years, but nothing could stop this hardcore group of clubbers of Zouk, not stern warnings, fines, or even streams of water jets aimed at removing the mess from the bridge.
Now, it seems that the new liquor control bill that was implemented last month might just do the trick.
Last month, the Singapore Parliament passed the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill which restrict the purchase and consumption of alcohol in public places between 10.30 pm and 7 am every day.
Under this bill, police have the authority to demand for people to dispose their alcohol, give orders for them to vacate a place, as well as issue fines of up to SGD 1,000 (for first-time offenders)
While previously Zouk clubbers had the option to buy cheap booze at the nearby Holiday Inn and settle down in a cozy spot on the Jiak Kim bridge (otherwise known as The Bridge) to consume them, merry-makers now found themselves restricted from buying alcohol once the clock struck 10.30 pm, and even those lucky enough to buy or bring their own booze had trouble finding a good spot to consume them.
Said 22 year old Calvin Soh, a full-time national serviceman (NSF) who was among the merry-makers affected by the bill: “I previously drank at the (Zouk) bridge area, but now I have to go further in at the road side area (near River Valley Primary).”
Even so, merry-makers such as Calvin find no respite as police presence in the area has stepped up ever since the implementation of the bill.
According to reports by clubbers, during clubbing days (Wednesdays and weekends), there has not only been constant patrol by the police around the common drinking areas during the prohibited hours (10.30 pm onwards), but increasingly, police have also been seen stepping in to warn clubbers about the new rules, as well as ask them to either keep or throw away their alcohol, even before the cut-off timing.
When queried by the media, the Singapore Police Force said that the police will “take a calibrated and even-handed approach in enforcing the law”. In addition, Minister for Home Affairs Mr S Iswaran said that “in enforcing the new Bill, police will prioritise their resources, and focus on problem areas.” He also emphasised that the intent is not to penalise the mere possession of alcohol.
Even so, these measures seem to have forced youths who enjoy clubbing to the extremes when it comes to avoiding getting into trouble with the police.
According to 19-year-old Geraldine Goh, a Singapore Polytechnic student, she claimed that these measures have caused her friends to have no choice but to take extreme measures in order to avoid getting into trouble with the police, with some even going to the extent of drinking in a toilet in Little India just to avoid getting caught.
“We will do whatever it takes not to get into trouble with the law. But shots are Zouk cost $14 (and) as our spending powers are limited, we will still buy alcohol and drink outside.”
Little India, as well as Geylang, were marked as “Liquor Control Zones” after a riot broke out in the Little India district. Both areas were flagged as having higher amounts of public order incidents, and currently, a ban is in place on the purchase and drinking of alcohol during weekends and public holidays.
In implementing the law, it is recommended that clubbers who want to still enjoy their booze should either buy their alcohol earlier or drink at a private estate or in a licensed establishment.
However, this has irked clubbers such as 22 year old Marc Xu, an NSF, who said that authorities should “get real”, as no one drinks before 10.30 p.m. Others also moaned the fact that the law does not take into consideration the financial needs of youths age 18 to 25, who have limited financial capabilities.
“If you enforce these rules on them, where would they go? Public bars and siam dui? (a Thai disco) It’s too expensive for them.”
While many clubbers have expressed their dissatisfaction with the law when this reporter spoke to them, many have said that they are not intending to do anything about it.
As 22 year old Aloysius Ng, an NSF, puts it, “this is Singapore, and we have no choice, but just to accept.” Others, like 21 years old Shafiqah Jalil, a Temasek Polytechnic student, feels that it is a “good thing”, as she understands that it is “for everyone’s safety”, as some people get rowdy when they are drunk.
However, what many agree with is that this new law seems excessive and suggested that a more calibrated approach could have been taken.
“I miss those days where the bridge is crowded, and everyone was drinking and having fun. Now, they are all gone.”