SINGAPORE: The owner of a mala restaurant was fined S$9,000 on Thursday (Jul 15) for allowing large groups of customers to gather behind closed shutters to eat and drink liquor.

Singapore permanent resident Sun Wenqian, 39, pleaded guilty to supplying liquor without a licence and failing to ensure his restaurant adhered to the maximum permissible group size for customers, which was five at the time of the offence.

The court heard that Sun owned the Mala Jiang Hu restaurant at 136 Sims Avenue, which was within the Geylang liquor control zone.

At 11.44pm on Sep 19 last year, a man called the police and said the restaurant had closed its doors, but there were many people inside not practising social distancing.

Three police officers visited the premises about two hours later. They found the restaurant’s shutters down, but entered to conduct a check.

The officers found two rooms inside the restaurant with customers eating and drinking. There were at least six people eating at a table in the first room, and 10 people who were having food and beer in the second room.

Sun did not have the required licence to supply liquor at his restaurant, but instructed his employees to sell it to customers anyway.

The limit on group gatherings at the time was five people, but Sun did not take any steps to ensure that this limit was kept to.

The prosecutor sought a S$10,000 fine, highlighting that the acts were concealed, and at least 16 people were involved. However, he noted that Sun had cooperated with authorities.

Sun, who had no lawyer, said through a Mandarin interpreter that he accepted his mistake. 

“In my communications with the investigating 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. We have already closed the restaurant, so I will not reoffend,” he said.

He asked to be allowed to pay his fine in instalments, saying he was the sole breadwinner for a family of five, including two 21-month-old children, and had to pay a mortgage.

The judge ordered him to pay his fine in instalments of S$1,500.

For supplying liquor at his restaurant without a licence, Sun could have been fined up to S$20,000. He could have been jailed up to six months, fined up to S$10,000, or both for breaking a COVID-19 regulation. 

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