An alliance to keep nightlife safe

This article is more than 12 months old

New industry-linked group to be formed to raise nightlife standards in Singapore

A new alliance is being formed to promote responsible drinking and raise standards in the nightlife sector, marking the first industry-wide effort to do so.

Helmed by operators and alcohol suppliers, it aims to train bar staff on how to spot and handle inebriated customers and even teach them how to react during a terror attack.

The Singapore Nightlife Business Association (SNBA), which represents 445 operators, and the European Chamber of Commerce's (EuroCham) wine, spirits and beer committee here composed of nine alcohol brands that make up the lion's share of the local market are joining forces, they told The Straits Times.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) is being finalised to form the Singapore Alliance for Responsible Drinking (Sard).

Also on the cards is a public engagement effort on responsible consumption and possibly an accreditation scheme to promote minimum standards for operators.

While both parties have worked together on ad hoc initiatives, they decided to pool their resources for larger impact, said vice-chairman of EuroCham's wine, spirits and beer committee Davide Besana.

Mr Besana is the Asia Pacific corporate affairs manager for Edrington, which makes Scottish whiskies such as The Macallan and Highland Park.

Edrington, together with other brands on the committee - Bacardi, Diageo, Moet Hennessy Diageo, Pernod Ricard, William Grant and Sons, Remy Cointreau, Carlsberg and Asia Pacific Breweries - make up an estimated 80 per cent of the alcohol market here.

The alliance will also provide a collective voice for the industry in its regular engagement with authorities, such as over the proposed amendments to the Public Entertainments and Meetings Act introduced in Parliament earlier this month.

Among the proposals are a "lighter touch" and licences with longer validity periods for law-abiding licencees, but stiffer penalties for errant operators.

SNBA president and nightlife veteran Dennis Foo said that the Ministry of Home Affairs has been more proactive in seeking industry input in recent years.

"We are very supportive of (the Amendment Bill) - it recognises that proper operators should not be treated the same as bad ones," he said.

The MOU to form the alliance will be signed within the next few months, and discussions have already begun on possible initiatives, said EuroCham executive director Lina Baechtiger.

Among these are the introduction of a voluntary accreditation scheme to raise standards in the industry by rewarding responsible operators.

The alliance is also looking to expand a programme to train bar staff to identify, intervene and prevent potential alcohol-related problems among customers.

Sard's formation is timely as the definition and scope of nightlife has evolved, noted Timbre Group's managing director Edward Chia, who is an SNBA committee member.

The lines between bars, clubs and restaurants have blurred, while a decentralisation of nightlife is expected to happen over the next decade as neighbourhood establishments continue to sprout, he pointed out.

The increasing terror threat and overseas attacks on public entertainment establishments also present fresh challenges.

Mr Chia said: "We need to train our people to know what to do if something happens, and the only way to do it is an industry broadscale thing."