Liquor consumption in public places to be banned between 10.30pm and 7am every day once laws come into effect
On 30 January 2015, the Singapore Parliament passed the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Bill for its Second Reading. For all practical purposes, it is now law as the Third Reading that is to come will only allow minor amendments. The laws are expected to come into effect in April and will subsequently be enforced by the Ministry for Home Affairs. Among other things, the controversial new laws ban the consumption of liquor in public places from 10.30pm to 7am every day.
Impact of the new laws on consumers
Under the Bill, a “public place” is defined as one to which the public may freely access, regardless of whether such access requires a fee or can be restricted from time to time. Places such as parks, void decks and roadsides are therefore off-limits to liquor consumption between 10.30pm to 7pm every day. It is not an offence to consume liquor at home or at licensed premises (e.g. bars, restaurants and coffee shops) during these hours, as these are not considered public places.
Persons caught consuming liquor in a public place between 10.30pm to 7am face a fine of up to $1,000. Repeat offenders can expect to be fined up to $2,000 and/or jailed for up to 3 months.
Impact of the new laws on licensed liquor suppliers
Apart from consumers, licensed liquor suppliers will also be affected by the new Bill. For example, liquor sales will only be allowed during the trading hours specified in the licence. The Ministry for Home Affairs has also indicated its intention to cease retail sales of take-away liquor (e.g. at convenience stores) by 10.30pm island-wide unless a time extension has been applied for by the supplier and granted. Licensees found flouting this law will be fined up to $10,000.
Creation of Liquor Control Zones
The Bill also allows for the permanent or temporary creation of Liquor Control Zones if the consumption of liquor in any area creates a significant risk of public disorder. Persons caught consuming liquor in a public place during the off-limits hours may see the penalties increasing by up to 1.5 times. Parties found supplying liquor in such zones without a licence may also be forced to temporarily cease all business activities. At the moment, areas which have been designated Liquor Control Zones include certain areas of Little India and Geylang Serai (see Annex E of the press release on the First Reading of the Bill.
An Enhancement of Existing Laws
Apart from the implementation of new laws, it is to be noted that under Singapore’s existing laws, if the police reasonably suspect that you are drunk in a public place at any time of the day, it is authorised to direct you to leave, as well as confiscate any liquor found in your possession (regardless of whether the liquor had been consumed). If you are in fact found to be drunk and incapable of taking care of yourself, you stand to be fined up to $1,000 and/or jailed for up to 1 month. Repeat offenders will be fined up to $2,000 and/or jailed for up to 3 months.
This article is contributed by Tan Siew Ann, an undergraduate from the SMU School of Law.