Saturday, August 30, 2008

URA In Eatery, Nightspot Review

Source : The Business Times, August 30, 2008

THE Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) is reviewing the activities allowable in restaurants, food shops and pubs located in private shophouses.

One of the considerations is to allow more flexibility in providing live entertainment on the premises of restaurants and pubs.

Currently, live music and performances are not allowed in restaurants at private shophouses near residential estates.

URA has allowed pubs to operate along some main roads on the fringe of residential estates, but live entertainment is not allowed either.

Under URA's guidelines, the primary purpose for 'restaurants' is the sale of food while that of bars and pubs is the sale of alcoholic drinks.

As such, any restaurant, bar or pub that wants to provide live entertainment will need to apply to URA for a 'change-of-use'. For instance, a pub might need to be designated a 'nightclub' instead, as the guidelines for nightclubs do allow for the sale of alcoholic drinks with singing, dancing or live entertainment.

And the operator will still need to comply with licensing controls of various agencies such as the National Environmental Agency, the Police Entertainment Licensing Unit (PELU) and even the Land Transport Authority, depending on the traffic conditions. However, the process of applying for these licences is not as odious as it may sound.

An operator of a bar close to a residential neighbourhood who did not want to be named said that he had applied for and received a licence for live entertainment from PELU quite quickly. However, he was not aware that he also had to apply to URA for a 'change-of-use'.

Indeed, URA reveals that for the last three years, it has approved five applications for 'change-of-use' from restaurant to nightclub and one application from pub to nightclub.

A restaurant operator that provides occasional live entertainment (who also did not want to be named) revealed that after checking with PELU, it found that it was exempt for having to apply for a licence at all.

According to the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act, it does appear that PELU exempts certain performances from requiring licences if, for instance, these end before 10.30pm and the event is not held at the same place for more than three consecutive days within a month.

More flexibility will favour the business community. However, as the operators that BT spoke with have found, the neighbourhood residents are not always happy.

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