SINGAPORE, July 24 — Following a coronavirus outbreak linked to KTV nightclubs, the Singapore Nightlife Business Association (SNBA) yesterday (July 23) appealed to the public not to tar the entire industry with the same brush.
“In the past few weeks, the broad spectrum of nightlife has unfairly suffered for the wrongdoings of a handful of errant operators who run unlawful KTVs with unlicensed social hostesses.
“These unlawful operators were breaking the rules of public entertainment and the regulations under the Covid-19 Control Order,” the association said in an open letter to the Government.
SNBA represents the nightlife industry in Singapore.
In its letter, which was provided to the media, the association highlighted the importance of a government’s scheme to help many in the industry survive, including major players such as Zouk nightclub and private sports clubhouse the Singapore Cricket Club.
The scheme was introduced last October to help nightlife businesses change to run food-and-beverage (F&B) operations and keep afloat during the pandemic. They can also receive grants from trade agency Enterprise Singapore to defray the costs involved.
However, the industry came under fire from the public earlier this month after the Ministry of Health said that it was investigating cases of coronavirus infection among hostesses who had frequented KTV lounges operating as F&B outlets.
On Wednesday, the authorities clarified that no KTV lounges in the Covid-19 cluster received a government grant to convert their businesses.
The association said yesterday that based on its records, 16 operators who had run unlawful KTVs with unlicensed social hostesses had done so using a temporary F&B licence from the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) to operate.
Another 20 operators already possessed a licence to conduct F&B operations granted by SFA or did not have an F&B licence.
“Whether the unlawful KTVs bothered to obtain an F&B licence through SFA application prior to Covid-19 or through a pivot, (it) does not separate them from those unlawful KTVs who did not have an F&B licence at all.
“Ultimately, all these KTVs were flouting the law,” SNBA said.
The association also highlighted the importance of the pivot scheme in keeping many nightlife operators afloat during this period.
The Singapore Cricket Club, for instance, was able to welcome back members to the clubhouse with the pivot scheme by providing a wider range of F&B services.
Trina Tan, the head of its marketing and communications team, said that it has also allowed the clubhouse to keep more than 100 of its staff members in F&B operations employed.
“We hope the Government will recognise that there are different types of nightlife businesses that need to be regulated differently. Those with robust screening procedures in place and good tracing capabilities are low-risk and ideal for pilots introducing greater relaxation of safe measures,” she added.
In the letter, Zouk’s chief executive officer Andrew Li said that under the pivot scheme, Zouk has been able to convert its Capital club to a restaurant and expand the capacity of its existing bistro kitchen.
“Being able to pivot has truly helped keep the Zouk team intact, while saving livelihoods and making sure this 30-year-old Singaporean nightlife brand keeps going and ensuring our patrons dine in a safe and responsible way,” Li said.
The association also said that as the industry navigates through the pandemic, it will work with relevant agencies to support nightlife establishments that have changed their operations.
This will include implementing a whistle-blowing platform on the SNBA website so that the public may inform it of unlicensed activities and breaches of safe management measures occurring in KTV clubs. These reports will be directed immediately to the authorities for their enforcement.
The association will also work with suppliers and landlords to report illegal activities on these premises. ― TODAY