SINGAPORE – Selected nightlife venues will be able to reopen by December or January under strict safe management measures – such as wearing masks on the dance floor and showing proof of negative Covid-19 tests before entering – as part of a two to three month pilot programme.
This announcement by the Government on Friday (Nov 6) on the possible resumption of some nightlife businesses comes about nine months into the closure of nightlife venues like clubs, karaoke joints and bars without food licences – which has seen many businesses crippled and even closed.
In the first six months of the year alone, 59 nightclubs, discotheques, dance clubs and karaoke outlets wound up, according to the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority.
The Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said in a joint statement that they are “working with various nightlife business associations to identify a small number of nightlife establishments to participate in the pilots”.
The pilot for pubs and bars is expected to kick off by December and last two months.
However, the pilot for karaoke establishments and nightclubs will only commence by January next year, as customers entering the premises would have to test negative for Covid-19 within the last 24-hours, via a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test or an antigen rapid test (ART).
The pilot for karaoke joints and nightclubs will also last longer for three months, said MTI and MHA, because more time is needed to assess the readiness of the industry to reopen. This is in the light of “much higher risks and the more stringent safe management measures required”.
Strict safe management measures will include ensuring that all customers wear masks at all times, even while on the dance floor or singing at karaoke joints. They will only be allowed to remove the masks while eating and drinking.
In line with existing regulations, alcohol cannot be sold, served or consumed after 10.30pm too.
Additionally, closed-circuit television cameras covering all common areas and rooms used for activities will need to be activated. Recordings from them, stored for at least 28 days, will be up for regular review by enforcement agencies. Those who breach the measures will not only face penalties under the Covid-19 (Temporary Measures) Act 2020, but may be removed from the pilot.
Separately, nightlife establishments who are not participating in the pilots will also get financial support packages to either pivot to food and beverage operations, or to exit with a one-off payment.
Nightlife businesses that wish to pivot to F&B or other commercial uses such as offices or gyms, will be able to apply for a grant of up to $50,000 from Enterprise Singapore (ESG) until March 31 next year. This is to make up for costs incurred during the pivoting process, such as equipment and third-party consultancy costs.
For businesses that have already pivoted, ESG will extend support to them on a case-by-case basis.
Alternatively, businesses looking to exit can apply to ESG until March 31 next year, for an ex gratia payment of $30,000 to defray the costs of the cessation of business. For any retrenchment benefits paid to local employees, employers can also seek financial support for one month of salary paid to each employee.
However, MTI and MHA said that if firms choose to receive either financial support package, they will not be allowed to participate in the pilot programme, or any subsequent resumption of nightlife operations for least 12 months.
Firms are advised to contact the Singapore Nightlife Business Association (SNBA), which is is working closely with MTI and ESG to provide support for the nightlife industry.
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