21 February 2019
For people who like pubs, Singapore is just as much a paradise as Hong Kong, if not better. Photo:
For people who like pubs, Singapore is just as much a paradise as Hong Kong, if not better. Photo:

Don’t read too much into Singapore liquor control act

Many people in Hong Kong are under the impression that Singapore is hardly comparable to our city in terms of nightlife and razzle-dazzle because it is an autocratic society where Big Brother is always watching.

The truth is, nightlife in Singapore is even more exciting and dazzling than ours in certain respects, as the country has a legal red-light district and casinos whereas we don’t.

For people who love booze, Singapore is just as much a paradise as Hong Kong, if not better.

Clarke Quay, Singapore’s equivalent of Lan Kwai Fong, is quickly becoming a wine and gastronomic center of the region.

It is named after Sir Andrew Clarke, Singapore’s second governor general during the 1870s who played a key role in positioning Singapore as the main port of the Strait of Malacca.

Clarke Quay is located upstream from the mouth of the Singapore River, where you can find dozens of pubs of different styles and high-end restaurants serving various cuisines from around the world.

Singapore has a very rich pub culture that dates back to the 19th century, thanks to its status as the region’s major trade hub, and that tradition has been preserved after Singapore gained its independence in 1965.

However, Singaporean authorities raised some eyebrows when it started enforcing the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Act on April 1, 2015, under which licensed pubs are the only public places where people can consume alcohol from 10:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Sales of alcohol are banned in all other retail stores and restaurants during that period.

Anyone who violates the law could face a fine of S$1,000 (US$731.42) or three months’ imprisonment for repeat offenders.

Some overseas observers said this might be a sign that the Singaporean government is tightening its control over the lives of its people in the post-Lee Kuan Yew era.

However, those who take this view might just be reading too much into it.

The law is actually made as a response to the 2013 riot in Little India, during which dozens of drunk foreign laborers were arrested for violating public order.

To prevent foreign laborers from causing trouble again under the influence of alcohol, the authorities legislated against the sales of alcohol in all outlets other than licensed pubs, which most foreign laborers cannot afford to patronize.

The whole idea is to stop them from drinking over the night.

However, as far as booze-loving tourists and business travelers are concerned, it is still pretty much business as usual.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Oct. 3.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Associate professor and director of Global Studies Programme, Faculty of Social Science, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; Lead Writer (Global) at the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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