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Hotpot restaurant fined for serving alcohol after 10.30pm during COVID-19 pandemic, eatery has closed down

Hotpot restaurant fined for serving alcohol after 10.30pm during COVID-19 pandemic, eatery has closed down

Orchard Plaza. (Screengrab: Google Street View)

SINGAPORE: A hotpot restaurant that served alcohol after 10.30pm during the COVID-19 pandemic was fined S$5,000 by a court on Wednesday (Nov 24), with a legal representative for the eatery saying that the closures ordered by authorities was "already worse than a fine".

Tangmen, the restaurant in Orchard Plaza, has shut down, with the owners losing around S$300,000, he added.

The representative pleaded guilty on behalf of Tangmen to two counts of breaching COVID-19 regulations by failing to stop consumption of liquor on its premises after 10.30pm.

The court heard that Singapore Tourism Board (STB) enforcement officers went to the restaurant at about 3.40am on Dec 19, 2020.

They observed two customers consuming drinks poured from a green tea bottle at the shop, and began conducting investigations there.

The two customers had arrived at the restaurant at 2am to eat and drink, and ordered beer from the waitress and supervisor there.

The staff poured the liquid from the beer bottles into green tea bottles and cups and served it to the customers.

The enforcement officers returned to the restaurant again past midnight on May 1 this year and observed three customers with three cups filled with "foamy yellow drinks" on their table.

They investigated and found out that the customers had arrived at the shop between 8pm and 9pm to eat and drink.

At around 10.30pm, there was beer leftover in their bottles, so an employee transferred the liquid into a teapot and three teacups for the customers to continue drinking.

The prosecutor asked for a fine of at least S$5,000, saying that the court should send a strong signal to food and beverage outlets to remain vigilant during the pandemic and to adhere to measures.

He said that there were attempts to conceal the alcohol on both occasions - with the liquid being served in green tea bottles on the first, and in a teapot and cups on the second.

The representative, who had no lawyer, said the tea cups were the usual cups used to serve beverages at the restaurant.

He said the restaurant was ordered to close for 10 days for the first breach and 20 days for the second.

"To us, this is already worse than a fine," he said through a Mandarin interpreter. 

"It is very tough to keep our food and beverage business going on during the pandemic. While we cannot say that this case is the reason why our shop closed down, but it is a major contributing factor."

He added that the owners have already lost about S$300,000.

"For us to be punished again with a court fine is fatal. We are on the brink of bankruptcy," he said.

The judge said it is clearly known that many food businesses have been affected by the pandemic and that many have suffered financial losses, but stressed that COVID-19 measures must be adhered to strictly.

He allowed the representative to pay the fine in instalments by January.

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Source: CNA/ll(mi)

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