SINGAPORE – A business sector has been unable to raise its glass to better times as Singapore prepares to treat Covid-19 as endemic.
A new dawn for the nightlife industry has not yet arrived, even as the country rolls out more vaccinated traffic lanes and refines protocols for hosting larger business and leisure events. ladder.
The nightlife industry, comprising nightclubs, bars and pubs, remains one of the last remaining economic sectors with no clear visibility on the reopening.
The number of victims is rising as a 20-month moratorium on live music and a 10:30 p.m. hiatus for the sale and consumption of alcohol – in place since March 2020 – persists.
The Singapore Nightlife Business Association (SNBA) said it had received 350 requests – as of the September 30 deadline – for a one-time payment of $ 30,000 from Enterprise Singapore (ESG) to cover the costs of going out of business. This figure represents about 9% of the 4,000 points of sale in the industry.
This adds to an estimate of more than 250 businesses that were not allowed to resume operations after a two-week nightclub closure in July. At that time, around 400 nightclubs – which had switched to food and drink (F&B) – were ordered to close after an increase in Covid-19 cases at KTV lounges and clubs.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MTI) said that as of November 11, only around 130 of these establishments had been allowed to resume restaurant activities.
A spokesperson for SNBA said: “Many operators have told us that the mandatory shutdown of nightlife businesses seems unfair as almost all industries in Singapore have been able to resume safely with the safeguards and measures. necessary, while the industry does not have the opportunity to function. “
While recorded music has been re-authorized in dining venues after a five-month hiatus, SNBA hopes that “live music and entertainment will be explored again, on a small scale or perhaps through some form of pilot, to begin to bring back the dynamism of the sector “.
Responding to questions from the Straits Times, MTI said it “continues to explore ways to pilot the reopening of the nightlife industry, bearing in mind the need to do so in a careful and calibrated manner, to protect public health “.
Meanwhile, the government has distributed employment support program benefits several times over the past 20 months, partially subsidizing the salaries of local staff. Until the end of September, ESG also accepted requests for grants of $ 30,000 for those looking to exit the sector.
With dark clouds still looming, some existing players are overcoming uncertainties as they evolve. Good Luck Beer House in Haji Lane, a five-year-old craft beer bar, is now Good Luck, a noodle bar.
Heart of Darkness, a craft beer bar in Keong Saik Road, had to close for almost two weeks before being allowed to reopen, after changes such as setting up a screen to hide its beer taps and reorienting it. of its menu to be more food-oriented. .
Despite dry times, new players continue to bet on the good times to come. Honcho, an ambitious new F&B concept spanning three floors in a boutique in Ann Siang Hill, plans to open next month.
However, the industry remains largely battered and battered.
“It has been an uphill battle for our industry … The instability of the business environment, coupled with the continued rise in costs due to the constant implementation of government policies, has resulted in an exhausted and defeated industry,” said said a spokesperson for Singapore Cocktail. Bar. It represents more than 60 bars.
Mr. Joshua Pillai, co-founder of entertainment company A Phat Cat Collective, said: “The reality is that the current night scene, as we know it, is completely eradicated at the moment. The current situation neither favors nor doesn’t try to reasonably maintain the current players, but the point is, F&B players are always going to come and go. “