Fill me in.
Following the spike in COVID-19 cases, plans to reopen Singapore’s nightclubs and karaoke outlets under a pilot programme have been deferred till further notice. Announced last December, the pilot was slated to begin in February 2021.
Ten karaoke outlets and two nightclubs were eventually selected by nightlife business associations to participate in the pilot.
The pilot plan would have allowed a maximum of 25 nightlife businesses, including 10 pubs and bars, 10 karaoke establishments and five nightclubs to reopen.
Three bars and pubs already operating under a similar pilot will be allowed to continue their business.
Pilot halted due to rise in COVID-19 cases.
The halt in plans was announced in a joint statement by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) which attributed the move to a recent spike in community cases, including cases that appear to be unlinked at present.
The future is uncertain.
This comes as a blow to Singapore’s nightlife operators, many of whom had spent a significant amount in anticipation of the pilot program.
Managing partner of Cash Studio Family Karaoke Mr Caine Poon revealed that $12,000-$15,000 had been invested in his business in preparation for the pilot. He noted that the lack of a definite timeframe and uncertainty would cause serious damage to the industry.
Other nightlife operators are feeling the heat. Mr Bryan Ong, whose nightclub Ipanema World Music Bar in Orchard Towers has been closed since last March, invested $10,000-$15,000 into the reopening of his nightclub.
In preparation for the pilot, Mr Ong rented a warehouse to store surplus furniture from the nightclub and purchased resources for sanitation purposes. He also hired extra manpower to help implement safety practices, installed sufficient closed-circuit television cameras across his premises, and ensured that he had adequate storage for the retention of footage.
Strict safety measures.
Tighter safety measures were to be implemented for the pilot, such as the wearing of masks while singing karaoke and dancing. Access to the selected nightlife establishments would only be available to local residents and individuals holding work passes, who have provided evidence that they have taken a COVID-19 test within the last 24 hours.
Alternative income sources.
In light of the delayed pilot, nightlife operators noted that they intend to focus on exploring other business options, or wait in hope that the pilot programme would be back in the works soon.
Many of them have resorted to running alternative businesses such as food and beverage establishments in the meantime.
The future of Singapore’s nightlife scene.
In response to news of the delayed pilot programme, Vice-President of the Singapore Nightlife Business Association (SNBA), Mr Nasen Thiagarajan, said that they understood the authorities’ considerations behind the delay. He urged nightlife operators who had been impacted by the programme’s deferment to “review their available options – be it to pivot, or exit – and to contact us for assistance on the next step forward.”