Is The Little India Alcohol Ban Going to Cripple Businesses?

Mark Cheng



In line with the spirit of giving (it is close to Christmas after all), the police announced on Wednesday that the ban on public alcohol consumption in Little India will be extended for SIX MONTHS! Some “gift” to business owners right?

If you’ve ever traveled overseas and wondered what on earth is in those brown paper bags people carry around (i’ll give you a clue, it isn’t tea), you’re about to find out… here in Singapore. Let’s evaluate the many aspects of the ban shall we?


What is This Ban?

The ban on public alcohol consumption, enforced after the riots in Little India on 8 Dec, was largely due to the assumption that alcohol was a major contributing factor to the riots (but the government has yet to reveal the blood alcohol level of those arrested, strange isn’t it?).

While there’s some plausible cause for suspicion, we also think the ban may be skirting the real underlying issues. Think about it – Little India isn’t the ONLY place where people are publicly intoxicated right (I can name a few other places that are rowdier)?

There are two major parts to the ban:

  1. There will be no public consumption of alcohol in Little India on weekends, the eve of public holidays, and on public holidays.
  2. The sale of alcohol will be restricted to between the hours of 6am-8pm for the 6-month duration.


Who Does It Affect?

The ban affects 134 outlets in Little India, mostly liquor shops and convenience stores. Looks like the age old tradition of buying liquor from 7-11 because you’re a cheapo smart will change during the ban. As for F&B establishments such as restaurants, hotels, pubs and coffee shops holding public house and beer house licences – the ban on sale and consumption of alcohol WILL NOT APPLY as long as alcohol is consumed within the establishment.

These “lucky” 240 outlets will escape the noose that’s already strangling liquor shops and convenience stores.

So why is this a big deal? First, apart from the obvious impact on liquor shops, there’s the simple fact that almost NO ONE buys their alcohol before 8pm. Given that alcohol is a MAJOR SOURCE OF REVENUE for these places, restricting the sale of alcohol after 8pm, when businesses make MOST of their profit is the government’s way of saying “at least we didn’t outright ban it, we let you keep some of your business.” And this attitude my friends, is what might harm businesses worse than the rioters did.

There’s also the fact that a large part of the community that frequents these places in Little India are not your average restaurant/pub-going crowd. These workers, who have shouldered the workload of building Singapore’s infrastructure over the last 10 years, congregate outside of these establishments to share a few drinks and stories after a hard week of work. Who’s to say that they don’t deserve a beer after doing more manual labor in a week than the average Singaporean does in a year?


What’s Going To Happen

While it remains to be seen if this “ban” will have as dire an effect on business owners as we think it will, (or whether things will get back to “normal” in a month or two) we’ll probably start start to see a lot more brown paper bags holding unidentified bottles of liquid around the area.

But one thing is certain – this ban still doesn’t solve the underlying social causes behind the riot. To say that alcohol was the main cause of the incident is like saying that playing violent video games is the sole cause of gun violence.

As for business owners, we hope that the government re-evaluates the ban before it causes more financial damage to small business than the actual riot did. 

We’re very keen on exploring the financial impact of the riots on small business owners. So stay tuned and  follow us on Facebook as we evaluate this and other issues related to the Little India riot.


What are your thoughts on the alcohol ban? Do you think it is really going to have any effect? Share your thoughts here.

Image Credits:

Keep updated with all the news!


Mark Cheng

I rant and rave a lot, but when I'm not busy doing that, I'm managing the content for MoneySmart. I love Singapore, but I also believe in helping it to improve bit by bit, and that's where MoneySmart comes in. Have some thoughts? Drop me an email at [email protected]