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COVID-19: Encik Tan outlet failed to keep diners' chairs 1m apart, parent group fined by court

COVID-19: Encik Tan outlet failed to keep diners' chairs 1m apart, parent group fined by court

File photo of an Encik Tan outlet. (Photo: Facebook/Encik Tan Singapore)

SINGAPORE: The parent company of an Encik Tan food outlet in the Orchard Road area was fined S$4,000 on Tuesday (Jan 11) for failing to ensure that diners' chairs were spaced at least 1m away from those at other tables.

Fei Siong Food Management was given the penalty after a representative pleaded guilty to one count of breaching a COVID-19 control order.

Fei Siong, which has more than 150 outlets across Singapore, had been given eight composition or out-of-court fines for previous contraventions of control orders at its other outlets.

The court heard that enforcement officers from the Singapore Tourism Board went to the Encik Tan outlet at 313 Somerset at about 7.50pm on May 14 last year.

The officers observed the area for about five minutes before taking measurements of the distances between the chairs of some customers.

During those five minutes, there was no attempt by the management to check on the 1m requirement, the prosecutor said.

The officers' checks revealed that there were three instances where the backs of the chairs were not at least 1m apart from seats at other tables.

Instead, they were 44cm, 79cm and 88cm apart. The management for the food outlet therefore overlooked the need to maintain a 1m distance as required under the COVID-19 control orders.

On eight previous occasions, Fei Siong Food Management had flouted control orders at other outlets and paid composition fines in those instances.

The prosecutor asked for a fine of S$5,000, while the defence asked for not more than S$2,500.

Lawyer Shaun Marc Lew asked the court to consider the difficulties of enforcing the rules and that Fei Siong has more than 150 outlets to manage. 

Fei Siong had devised a safe management plan for its outlets including Encik Tan, disseminating the information across to its brand managers who would then further communicate it to employees.

The brand managers would also occasionally go to the outlets to make sure the measures were complied with, said Mr Lew.

He said the offences were committed during dinner time on a Friday, which is a typically busy time for the outlet.

Fei Siong "fell short" of the legal requirements due to manpower limitations, he said, but stressed that it had placed yellow markings at the 1m boundary, which is over and above the legal requirements.

The eatery has a "casual and laidback" environment, and the chairs are not fixed to the floor, so it is "also dependent on Fei Siong's customers" to exercise care, said the lawyer.

He said the lapse on Fei Siong's part was due to the manpower shortage and not any defiance. The group fell short of the 1m requirement by mere centimetres, he said.

The judge said the company had been given previous composition fines and that this was a factor that had to be borne in mind.

The company could have been fined a maximum of S$10,000.

Source: CNA/ll(gr)

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