SINGAPORE: The Banana Leaf Apolo restaurant was fined S$10,000 by a court on Wednesday (May 5) for hosting a birthday party at its Little India outlet for 40 guests, with a self-service buffet.
The general manager of the restaurant chain, which has been operating in Singapore since 1974, pleaded guilty to two charges of breaching COVID-19 regulations.
These are for allowing 40 people to gather at the 48 Serangoon Road restaurant between 6pm and 10pm on Sep 12 last year, and for allowing some of them to make speeches. Another three charges were considered in sentencing.
The court heard that the restaurant accepted an advance booking for the group for a birthday celebration on the second floor. Employees set up a sound system, microphones and a projector for customers to make speeches and to show a video montage. Food was also laid out for consumption.
Safe distancing ambassadors reported that there was a large group of people celebrating on the second floor. According to the ambassadors, as well as what was captured on closed-circuit television, the customers talked and mingled across tables without a 1m safe distance, and the tables and chairs were placed close together.
Customers helped themselves to food at the buffet and served it to others, and none of the employees told them not to do this. The restaurant manager was not there when safe distancing ambassadors went down, as he was on the ground floor.
The prosecution sought a fine of S$10,000, or S$5,000 per proceeded charge.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Stephanie Koh categorised this as "a serious breach", as the event lasted four hours and involved a large group of people who intermingled in close proximity.
"This was an event that did pose a high risk of transmission of virus and could have been a cluster if anyone was infected," said Ms Koh, adding that it did not happen in this case.
She said there was "no reason" for the restaurant to accept such a large booking given the COVID-19 restrictions. They did not have measures to manage the movement of customers, and instead, facilitated some breaches by providing equipment, she added.
The restaurant manager said in court: "We would like to apologise for what happened and we have taken a lot of measures to ensure that this doesn't happen ever again, sir."
The company could have been fined up to S$10,000 per charge of breaching a COVID-19 regulation.