WATCH & VOTE: Are proposed curbs on public drinking 'timely'?
Imagine people sitting around on public pavements, laughing and talking loudly.
Imagine them drinking.
Imagine them vomiting.
Imagine the horrible smells and the mess of glass bottles, cans, cigarette butts and spilt drinks, and the work of some poor cleaner who has to spray down the place thereafter.
That is the reality that residents like me - I live in an apartment near Robertson Quay in the residential area near Zouk - have to deal with on three days every week.
Which is why I am heartily behind the new Bill to restrict liquor consumption, introduced in Parliament yesterday.
Once enacted, the consumption of alcohol in public places like parks, pavements and void decks will not be allowed from 10.30pm to 7am every day.
In line with this, the sale of take-away liquor will also end at 10.30pm.
Problem areas can also be designated as "Liquor Control Zones" where restrictions will be tighter and penalties harsher. Geylang and Little India are the first such zones.
All this will inevitably draw some cries about how "draconian" and "restrictive" it is, but I say it's about time.
Try living with glass bottles, some broken, littering the area when you take a walk in the neighbourhood in the morning.
To be fair, the kids who are topping themselves up with alcohol bought from nearby shops are just out to have a bit of fun.
It's become a bit of a tradition - they don't want to spend too much money inside the club, so they get happy on the cheap stuff first.
They are generally not aggressive to residents or patrons of the nearby hotels.
I remember being young(er) and wanting a drink or three with my mates. So, yeah, on that level, I understand.
It's the scale of the problem that is the nub here: We're not talking about the odd teen milling around. We're talking about multiple groups sitting on the pavement at Robertson Bridge.
Try walking the area on the clubbing nights - Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays - and you have to weave through the groups on Robertson Bridge. They also throng the area outside the Grand Copthorne Hotel and across the bank, on the sidewalks bordering Rivergate condominium.
Oh. True story: I saw a youngster puke into a plastic bag of empty beer cans once. He then nonchalantly tied it up and threw it over the side of the bridge into the Singapore River.
At least he "cleared up", I suppose. Some bin their bottles and trash properly, but there are those who don't.
And where there is booze, there is a certain loquacity. Voices get more animated and louder as the alcohol flows.
They might not be yelling, but sound carries a long way at night.
A neighbourhood sundry store, which sells everything from soap to ice cream, stocks some beer and wine. Once, after it closed for the night, some youngsters took to breaking into the locked fridge to get at the beer.
The lady boss often reminds the patrons to keep it down. She has told me before: "I don't want any trouble and sometimes, they get really loud and residents get angry."
For the record, I don't think it's a matter of the address. It's hard to accept that throngs of people can decide to drink, litter and vomit in any residential estate.
The situation improved somewhat after the Member of Parliament for the area, Ms Indranee Rajah, visited in 2011 and proposed a no-alcohol zone in 2012.
There have been stepped-up patrols, but what can anyone do? There is no law against hanging out or drinking in public.
Until this Bill kicks in, that is. The police will have the ability to ask someone to leave a public area and dispose of the alcohol.
Singapore is actually taking a more moderate approach: In New York City, and in the US states of Maryland and Kansas, for instance, there is a complete ban on public alcohol consumption at all times. Oslo, Perth and Brisbane are among other cities that also take this no-go stance.
Among the moderates are the cities of Prague, Nice and Sydney, where there is a partial restriction at specific times. Singapore will join this list when the Bill is passed.
So, to the chaps who like sitting on the bridge: It's not as if you can't enjoy your time with your mates. There are plenty of bars dotting the area.
This has been happening for years. If partygoers can't rein it in despite the patrols, then it's high time for this Bill to kick in.
Share your views with Natalie at email@example.com
Residents say: 'Proposed Bill not strict enough'
WHAT THE BILL PROPOSES
Every morning, Mr Asdaq Wahid enjoys a walk along the Singapore River near Robertson Quay.
But if you ask the 49-year-old investment manager about his walks on weekends, you would think that he was trekking through a minefield.
He said: "Vomit lines the walkways and I would see clubbers sleeping or passed out, with beer bottles scattered on the pavements and the bridges."
And he has seen drunk clubbers dumping bottles into the river.
Which is why he welcomes the proposed Bill to control the consumption of alcohol, in particular the ban on drinking in public places from 10.30pm to 7am daily.
Mr Wahid even feels that the Bill does not go far enough - he would like to see a blanket ban on drinking in public places, like in some other countries.
"A blanket ban would send a stronger message to the public about consuming alcohol more responsibly," he said.
He thinks the proposed curfew could be circumvented as he had previously seen the police clear the area of people drinking in public.
"They break for a week or two, then they come back once the patrols are gone," he added.
Asked if greater enforcement would help, Mr Wahid said: "The right regulation is better and more effective than the enforcement of a less effective regulation."
While welcoming the proposed curfew on public drinking, two other residents felt they may not be effective enough.
Ms Ayako Takahashi, 39, who lives in Mirage Tower on Kim Seng Road, said: "If they are focused on enjoying themselves, it is unlikely they would follow the curfew."
A Rivergate condominium resident who wanted to be known only as Michelle, 35, said: "They may just choose to start drinking earlier to get high before entering the club."
- CHIN YONG CHANG and HEATHER HUMPHRIES
Businesses say: 'Why let a few black sheep ruin it for the rest of us?'
The Rivergate Grocer expects to take a big hit on its sales proceeds if and when the curfew on drinking in public takes effect.
Owner Mike Wong, 49, said he disagreed with the Bill to restrict alcohol consumption.
The Rivergate Grocer is just one of many shops selling alcohol in the area near Zouk.
Mr Wong said: "I often turn away customers when it is obvious they should not be drinking any more.
"Why should we let a few black sheep ruin the drinking experience for the rest of us?"
On Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, most of his customers are clubbers who want to consume alcohol before they head to Zouk.
A sales assistant, who wanted to be known only as Lilet, said she would often give a 10 per cent discount to clubbers to encourage them to continue patronising the store.
Most of Mr Wong's customers on the three nights buy their liquor after 10.30pm, which is why he expects his business to suffer if the Bill is passed.
He said that about 60 per cent of his takings on the three nights come from alcohol sales.
Clubbers said they also buy alcohol from convenience stores in Concorde Shopping Centre, which is linked to Holiday Inn Singapore Atrium at Outram Road.
But stores there declined comment.
A spokesman for Holiday Inn said that people do pass through the hotel to buy alcohol from the shopping centre.
It does not permit non-hotel guests to bring alcohol and drink on its premises.
The spokesman added: "We have security officers stationed in the hotel atrium. For the sake of our guests, we ensure that outsiders are made to leave if they become too rowdy."
Clubbers say: Alcohol pre-loading is routine
A bottle of Absolut vodka costs about $200 in Zouk. The same bottle costs about $50 at a nearby convenience store.
This is why some clubbers choose to "pre-load" on alcohol bought from convenience stores before going to the famous club.
Undergraduate Samuel Ang, 27, said: "If possible, I would buy alcohol from nearby convenience shops as it is much cheaper than drinking inside Zouk."
Mr Chuah Wen Xun, 21, who is waiting to enter university, said that while such behaviour is common, he has noticed people behaving irresponsibly after leaving the club at about 5am.
They would vomit on the streets and litter the place with plastic bags and food wrappers.
"They are often too drunk to get home properly and many of them end up passing out on the grass patch or pavement," he said.
Another clubber who declined to be named said: "It is like a routine now. Everybody does it because it is cheaper, so we follow."
Asked about the proposed curfew, he conceded that it would minimise the disturbances faced by nearby residents.
But like other young clubbers, he is unhappy that their nights of "pre-loading" on cheap alcohol could soon be over.
"It's not fair as it will be tougher to get alcohol, 10.30pm is usually the time we start to buy alcohol.
"So we'll have to look into going to other clubs or bars that sell less expensive drinks," he said.