'I'd rather deal with the occasional drunk'

ORDERLY: Hundreds of foreign workers at Little India were seen queueing up for buses to take them back to their dormitories yesterday.

They used to sit by the roadside and in the open fields at Little India, drinking beer and catching up with their friends.

Often, some of the South Asian foreign workers would end up drunk and rowdy after having one drink too many.

Even though the neighbourhood is more peaceful now, many businesses there told The New Paper that they preferred the situation before the alcohol ban was rolled out on Dec 14 last year.

TNP spoke to 20 businesses, including restaurants and liquor stores, in Little India, and nearly all of them said sales have plummeted by at least 50 per cent after the riot.

Said Mr M. Shaiyleysh, 20, who works for Pamban Trading provision shop at Race Course Road: "I'd rather deal with the occasional drunk than see the business suffer."

There are also business owners who have decided to throw in the towel and close down their businesses due to poor takings. One business owner, who gave his name as Mr George, said he invested $200,000 to open a restaurant 2½ years ago, but decided to close down last month.

The 44-year-old said that before the riot, his eatery could make up to $5,000 every Sunday and about $1,000 every weekday. But due to the ban, the restaurant made only about $2,000 every Sunday and between $600 and $800 every weekday.Chairman of the Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association Rajakumar Chandra said that liquor shops are among the worst affected by the ban and they are suffering up to a drop of 80 per cent in business.


He said that in the near future, he will be putting up an appeal to the Home Affairs Ministry to lift the ban between 6pm and midnight on Saturdays.

Currently, the alcohol ban is between 6am on Saturday and 6am on Monday.

But residents in the neighbourhood have a different view and some of them want the ban to be enhanced.

Chairman of the Tekka Residents' Committee Martin Pereira told TNP that residents have told him that they want the ban to start earlier - at 6pm on Friday.

He said: "With the ban, residents feel more secure when they come home at night. There is now also less noise in the area. There are fewer drunk and disorderly people in Little India on weekends."

A resident at Block 661, Buffalo Road, who wanted to be known only as Mrs Tan, 40, agreed.

She said that the neighbourhood used to be heavily littered with empty beer cans and leftover food on Monday mornings. But these can no longer be found lying around after the ban.

She added: "The foreign workers now queue for the buses to take them back to their dormitories on Sunday nights at Race Course Road.

"Previously, they used to just rush for them and it was very disorderly. Now, from my flat, I can see them patiently queueing for their transportation back. This is a very good improvement."