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Groups of happy customers pack bars for late-night drinks on first day of relaxed Covid-19 rules

SINGAPORE — When Ms Renu Sharat first heard the news last week that groups of 10 people a table are permitted to dine out together from Tuesday (March 29), she immediately sent a WhatsApp text message to her friends and booked a table for six at a bar in Clarke Quay for the same day.

Groups of happy customers pack bars for late-night drinks on first day of relaxed Covid-19 rules

A scene at Clarke Quay on March 29, 2022, the first day that Covid-19 infection controls were eased to allow late-night drinking at eateries.

  • People who had waited long to have drinks with friends sprinted out on the first day of relaxed Covid-19 rules
  • Bigger groups of patrons were allowed at F&B places from March 29
  • At Clarke Quay, customers rejoiced that they could meet more people and have late-night drinks again
  • Business owners were glad as well but still have to cope with manpower shortage

SINGAPORE — When Ms Renu Sharat first heard the news last week that groups of 10 people a table are permitted to dine out together from Tuesday (March 29), she immediately sent a WhatsApp text message to her friends and booked a table for six at a bar in Clarke Quay for the same day.

“I’m very happy, it’s fantastic,” she said. 

The group, consisting of three pairs of couples, became friends through work but had not been able to meet as a group outside for more than a year due to Covid-19 infection controls. 

Mr Sharat Menon, Ms Renu's husband, said with a laugh: “Previously, we always had to decide which four people we wanted to meet.”

From left: Ms Suma Manohar, Ms Renu Sharat, Ms Shilpa Sardesai, Mr Aditya Sardesai, Mr Sharat Menon and Mr Girish Sathyanarayana having drinks at a bar in Clarke Quay on March 29, 2022.

At 9pm on Tuesday when TODAY visited Clarke Quay, which is known for its nightlife, it was bustling with activity and there were a number of large groups of customers hanging out together.

Live singing and live band music could also be heard coming from the restaurant-bars in the entertainment hot spot. 

Live performances are allowed to resume at all venues, including F&B establishments from Tuesday, as long as performers comply with the prevailing regulations that include keeping group sizes to 10 unmasked persons. 

Tuesday was also the first day that the Government lifted the 10.30pm alcohol ban imposed as part of Covid-19 regulations for F&B businesses.

Customers who spoke to TODAY were all smiles, saying they were very happy that some of the rules were eased.

Ms Valerie Saw, 29, who works for a non-profit organisation, was having drinks with a group of five colleagues at a bar. She said: “It’s really nice. I kind of forgot what it feels like to meet as a big group.

“At least now it feels like there is an end to the pandemic in sight.”

Her colleague, Ms Niki Sanida who arrived in Singapore from the Netherlands 10 days ago for a business trip, said: “It’s so nice that we can sit as a group of six. For the past week, we had to split into two groups and it was so troublesome.” 

A group of customers at a bar in Clarke Quay raising their glasses for a toast.
Customers singing along to a live music act at a bar in Clarke Quay on March 29, 2022.

For Ms Anjer Ryn, 36, who works as a retail assistant, she could finally reunite with her longtime friends whom she has known since she was a teenager when they were living in the same neighbourhood in Bishan. 

Although there are 15 in the group, a few have to skip the gathering to keep within the 10-person limit.

“I’m just so happy that I get to meet most of them and catch up with them,” Ms Anjer said. 

WHAT BUSINESS OWNERS SAY

It was not just the customers who were beaming, Ms Jamie Joy Luna, manager of Thai-Khun Bar and Street Foods, said: “It feels like Clarke Quay is alive again.”

She told TODAY that this scene was a stark contrast from what she was used to seeing on a weekday night for the past year, when the restrictions on alcohol consumption and sale were still in place. 

"Sometimes... you would not even see a soul walking here. It's just us (who work in the F&B venues)." 

However, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the F&B sector is not going away overnight, as the majority of customers in Clarke Quay were still in smaller groups of five or fewer, and a few pubs were not fully occupied. 

Many patrons who were dining and drinking at Clarke Quay on March 29, 2022, still stuck to small groups of five or fewer.

Looking forward to better business was Mr Kenji Tan, general manager of Chorong Pocha, a bar that serves Korean street food.

“The extension of the timing to sell and serve alcohol would mean more sales and more crowds,” he said.

However, the issue of manpower shortage continues to weigh on many of the business operators’ minds. 

Ms Luna from Thai-Khun Bar and Street Foods said that she will monitor the crowd and see if her staff members can cope with the extension of operating hours, before deciding whether to hire more workers.

Musicians performing live at a bar in Clarke Quay on March 29, 2022.

At Gabbar Bistro and Bar, its owner Rohan Pai said that he is operating at half of the venue's manpower strength and had to call workers he laid off the past year due to the pandemic, to ask them if they want to take up their job roles again.

“But many of these workers are Malaysians and have returned home, so they aren’t willing to come back,” Mr Rohan added with a sigh. 

Related topics

nightlife bar F&B Covid-19 Covid-19 regulations social gathering

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