Restaurant owner who breached COVID group size rule fined $9,000

·Senior Reporter
·3 min read
A screenshot of Mala Jiang Hu (PHOTO: Google Street View)
A screenshot of Mala Jiang Hu (PHOTO: Google Street View)

SINGAPORE — An owner of a mala restaurant that was found to have two groups of patrons in breach of the maximum permissible group size of five persons was fined $9,000 on Thursday (15 July).

Sun Wenqian, 39, had also supplied liquor at Mala Jiang Hu, located at 136 Sims Avenue, even though he had no liquor license. The restaurant is located within the Geylang Liquor Control Zone, which makes Sun liable for enhanced punishment under the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Act 2015.

During Phase 2 of Singapore's partial lockdown, which was between 19 June and 27 December last year, social gatherings of more than five people were forbidden.

Sun was busted after an unknown male caller lodged a police report at around 11.44pm on 19 September last year, stating that Mala Jiang Hu had closed its doors, but that there were many people inside not practising social distancing.

In response to the phone call, three police officers visited the premises at 2.15am to conduct a check. The officers found the restaurant shutters closed but entered the restaurant anyway. They found two rooms with patrons inside eating and drinking.

One room contained at least six patrons sitting together at a table and sharing a meal, while the other room had 10 patrons sitting around a round table and eating, with four bottles of Heineken beer and several other glasses of beer on the table.

The 10 patrons admitted that they had ordered the beer from an employee at Mala Jiang Hu. Even though Sun did not have the necessary liquor license, he had instructed his staff to sell alcohol to the customers.

The prosecution sought a total fine of $10,000 for Sun, highlighting that the accused was selling liquor after the permitted hours. 

"Not only did the accused sell liquor without a license, he did so past the permitted time for the sale of liquor for licensed establishments, displaying a blatant disregard for the law," said Deputy Public Prosecutor Joshua Phang.

DPP Phang described the COVID-19 breach as of moderate severity and culpability given that there were at least 16 involved, but noted that Sun had cooperated with the authorities.

Speaking through an interpreter, Sun accepted that he had “made a mistake”.

“In my communications with the investigation officer on the case, I concede that we are not able to control the number of patrons as such we have decided to close the shop.”

Sun has since closed the restaurant. He asked to pay the fine in instalment as he was the sole breadwinner supporting two children, his wife and mother-in-law, with a mortgage to pay.

Under the Liquor Control (Supply and Consumption) Act 2015, the statutory maximum sentence for a first offence of supplying alcohol without a license is a $20,000 fine. As the offence was committed within a Liquor Control Zone, Sun could have been fined up to one-and-a-half times the penalty. For the COVID-19 breach, he could have been jailed up to six months and/or fined up to $10,000. 

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