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Some nightspots to reopen in Dec with strict safety rules; aid package launched for firms exiting industry

SINGAPORE — After seven months of closure, a small number of nightlife venues will be allowed to reopen starting in December under a short pilot scheme with more stringent safety measures, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Home Affairs said.

Some nightlife venues will be allowed to open, starting from December 2020, under a pilot scheme with stringent safety guidelines.

Some nightlife venues will be allowed to open, starting from December 2020, under a pilot scheme with stringent safety guidelines.

  • Selected pubs and bars may open by December, or January for karaoke lounges and nightclubs, with stringent safety rules in place
  • The pilots will last for two months for pubs and bars, three months for karaoke and nightclubs
  • Under the trial, establishments must keep to stringent measures that include surveillance cameras and, for nightclubs and karaoke lounges, pre-entry Covid-19 testing
  • Firms choosing to pivot or exit may get grants and payments of S$30,000 to S$50,000

 

SINGAPORE — After seven months of closure, a small number of nightlife venues will be allowed to reopen starting in December under a short pilot scheme with more stringent safety measures, the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Home Affairs said.

The pilot scheme, which will require surveillance cameras to be deployed in all common areas and rooms on these premises, and for customers to wear masks when singing or on the dance floor, will start by December for pubs and bars and last for two months, the ministries said in a joint statement on Friday (Nov 6).

For karaoke lounges and nightclubs, customers must test negative to Covid-19 in the previous 24 hours, with the pilot to begin in January and to last for three months, because more time will be needed to assess whether it is safe for more of these “higher risk” venues to reopen.

The ministries said that they have been working with various nightlife business associations to identify “a small number” of nightlife establishments to take part in the trials.

With these, the Government will decide whether the measures are effective or viable enough to allow more nightlife businesses to resume.

The two ministries warned though, that even if the pilots turn out well, the nightlife industry will not return to normal “for a considerable period”.

The announcement comes on the back of an update by the multi-ministry task force handling Singapore’s Covid-19 response on Oct 20 that nightlife venues will not be permitted to reopen in their original form even after the country enters the third phase of reopening it economy.

Nightlife establishments selected under the pilot must ensure:

  • Customers wear masks at all times, except while eating and drinking, even on the dance floor or while singing

  • Alcohol is not sold, served or consumed after 10.30pm

  • Closed-circuit television cameras are deployed to cover all areas and rooms. Recordings must be stored for at least 28 days for enforcement agencies to review that they have complied with all safe management rules

  • For karaoke lounges and nightclubs, customers must test negative for Covid-19 within 24-hours before the end of their visit

These rules will be in addition to existing safety rules that require, for example, different groups of customers to maintain a safe distance from each other on the dance floor.

The later pilot date for karaoke lounges and nightclubs is so that these establishments have more time to prepare for the pre-entry Covid-19 tests to be conducted, the ministries said.

These pre-entry tests can be done either through a polymerase chain reaction test, which is the main test used in Singapore to confirm Covid-19 cases, or the faster and cheaper antigen rapid test that is used for participants of large-scale events.

Enforcement agencies will check that nightlife establishments taking part in the pilot, as well as their customers, adhere to these safety rules at all times.

Those found in breach of the regulations will face penalties under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020 and may be removed from the pilot.

“In the event of a Covid-19 cluster at these establishments, we may suspend or terminate the pilots,” the ministries said.

ASSISTANCE PACKAGE FOR FIRMS EXITING

The Government will roll out two assistance packages, one for nightlife establishments choosing to pivot their business and another for those deciding to exit the industry altogether, they said.

For those that choose to move into other business activities:

  • The application process for these establishments to move into food-and-beverage operations has been simplified

  • Those that choose to convert their venue for other commercial uses, such as offices or gyms, will be assessed on an expedited case-by-case basis

  • From now until March 31 next year, they may apply for a grant of up to S$50,000 to defray some costs incurred while pivoting their business

For those that choose to exit:

  • From now until March 31 next year, they may apply for an ex-gratia payment of S$30,000 to defray the costs of stopping the business

  • Employers should honour any contractual retrenchment benefits or follow the norms set out in tripartite guidelines for workers

  • Employers can also seek financial support to defray retrenchment benefits for Singapore employees of up to one-month’s wage, capped at S$3,000

Nightlife establishments will be eligible for either one of these assistance packages only. Once they receive either one of the packages, they will not be allowed to take part in the pilot programme or resume nightlife operations for at least a year.

They may also tap existing government support, such as the Ministry of Law’s Simplified Insolvency Programme, for help in restructuring debts or winding up their company, the ministries added.

Firms that wish to apply for these packages can reach out to the Singapore Nightlife Business Association at helpdesk [at] snba.org.sg for guidance.

Related topics

nightlife karaoke disco Covid-19 coronavirus

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