June 5, 2009 Friday

Revel rousers

Rowdy youths buy cheap booze and hang out around Mohamed Sultan Road, causing a disturbance in the swanky enclaves

By cara van miriah

It smells like teen spirits - not to mention, beer and other alcohol. That is the smell of vomit on inner city streets around Clarke Quay and Mohamed Sultan Road, the result of drunk young revellers throwing up while out on the town.

Fed-up residents are kicking up a stink over the vomit, empty bottles of vodka and beer cans left by tanked-up youngsters that they face on the way to work in the morning.

Not only that, the hapless residents say they are kept awake in the early morning by noise from the rowdy crowds.

The uncivilised behaviour by these clubbers aged from around 18 to 25 is tarnishing the image of the upscale residential enclaves, say the apartment-dwellers, who pay at least $4,500 in rent a month.

Manager Jamey Unruh, 31, who has been living at Fraser Place Robertson Walk serviced apartments in Mohamed Sultan Road for a month, says: 'This is a nice residential area and something should be done to control these people on the streets.'

Mr Unruh, along with other residents living at Mohamed Sultan Road, are seething and losing sleep over the young clubbers who are drawn to cheap booze sold at dbl-0 and O Bar clubs, located within the same Fraser Place building as the residents.

At dbl-0, glasses and jugs of housepour spirits and draft beer go for $3 and $12 each respectively from Wednesdays to Saturdays. Elsewhere, a glass usually costs at least $9 and a jug, from $30.

The boozy youths also tank up on discount drinks at a 7-Eleven store located opposite the clubs, grouse residents.

Bar operators elsewhere also say that these teens are bad for business because they try to smuggle in cheap booze.

Indeed, Ms Shalynn Pillay, 30, a translator who has been living for two years at another condominium in the area, Oleanas Residences in Kim Yam Road, observes: 'I see them mixing the alcohol purchased from the nearby 7-Eleven into mineral water bottles before returning to the clubs.'

She adds: 'These youngsters loiter outside the 7-Eleven store. They drink and smoke. They also throw empty cigarette packets and drink bottles on the ground.'

Mr Unruh's wife, homemaker Gillian Unruh, 28, whose apartment at Fraser Place is located on the eighth floor, above the ground-floor O Bar, tells Life!: 'We are woken up at the night because we hear people shouting at 3am.'

Sometimes, intoxicated partygoers are found lying near Yumeya Japanese Restaurant the next morning, says owner Lee Loon, 34, whose eatery is located opposite Robertson Walk next to 7-Eleven.

'My staff also find litter outside the restaurant when they come to work at 11am,' he says, adding that the staggering drunks sometimes knock over his potted plants.

The area is not just a drawcard for revellers because of its clubs and bars - at its local convenience stores, they can buy alcohol at a fraction of the prices charged at the nightspots. So some like to hang around and get drunk on cheap booze before - and after - hitting the clubs.

A 7-Eleven spokesman declined to reveal sales figures, saying only that beer and alcopop, which are pre-mixed bottled spirits, are popular drinks purchased at the stores near clubbing precincts.

A can of beer costs less than $5 and a bottle of wine is priced under $30, whereas at nightspots, a mug of beer is at least $10 and a bottle of wine sets you back a minimum of $40.

Overnight, the hip area is tranformed into something like a fish market, with partygoers hanging around the precinct after clubbing hours, laughing and talking loudly and dropping their rubbish.

It gets rowdier on weekends

A spokesman for construction and property firm United Engineers Ltd, which manages the serviced apartments at UE Square and Kim Yam Road, says the situation is 'intensified during school holidays, as the clubs cater mostly to late teens'.

He adds: 'It is an entertainment area and some degree of rowdiness is inevitable. But we are aware of the increasing rowdiness in the vicinity, especially on weekends and the eve of public holidays.'

Life! checked out the scene over two recent weekends. It is a Friday night, at 11.30pm, some of the nightspots in Clarke Quay have yet to pack in the crowds. But the party has started at Read Bridge, which links the quay to Riverside Point.

This 'party zone' is a popular gathering place for young revellers who down cheap booze from the 7-Eleven 'bar' at Riverside Point before heading off to the clubs. They leave a mess behind - empty beer cans, bottles and used 7-Eleven plastic bags.

Nearly 20 groups of people are having a 'picnic' on the bridge, sitting on the edge, swigging from cans and startling passerbys whenever they break their glass bottles. As the night wears on, the young revellers grow louder by the drink.

During both Life!'s visits, partygoers stagger across the road to UE Square to throw up, including girls in short skirts, their hair undone and make-up smudged. By 2am, a few have passed out on the footpath. Friends stay to look after them.

By 3am, more clubbers spill onto the road, adding to traffic congestion at Unity Street, where a queue of taxis takes up half a lane on both sides.

A Clarke Quay spokesman says its security cannot stop groups from gathering at the bridge, but adds: 'Once they create a nuisance in Clarke Quay, we will take the necessary steps to manage the situation.'

A Robertson Walk spokesman says: 'Our priority is to ensure the security and safety of customers and tenants within the premises of Robertson Walk. Our security personnel will continue to be vigilant for unruly patrons within our vicinity. We will also continue to work closely with the police... on crowd control.'

A police spokesman says it will continue to monitor the situation at nightspots and conduct regular patrols to prevent crime. When contacted, the Emerald Hill Group, which runs cut-price booze outlets dbl-0 and O Bar, declined to comment.

Bar operators and landlords are fighting back against the cheap boozers and trouble-makers. Mr Bernard Lim, 40, chief executive of LifeBrandz, which runs Lunar, Rebel and Zirca clubs at Clarke Quay, tells Life!: 'Occasionally, we notice young patrons holding 7-Eleven bags at the door. We ask them to deposit them at the counter before entering the club.'

Others sneak in smaller liquor bottles in their handbags, says Mr Mike Lim, 29, managing director of The Arena club. They order a few glasses of sodas at $10 each so that they can mix them with the liquor they smuggled in. A 375ml bottle of spirit can be shared among several people, which translates to losses of at least $100 for the club.

Bar operators say anyone who is drunk is not allowed to enter. Mr Andrew Ing, 41, chief operating officer of St James Holdings, which runs St James Power Station, says: 'If people are caught drinking in our carpark, they are asked to leave.'

Cheap boozers are bad for business, say bar owners. Mr Adrian Houghton, 37, who runs TurnStyles Sports Bar Cafe at Holland Village and Circular Road, adds: 'They become a nuisance when they are drunk. Perhaps the way to deal with the problem is to prohibit drinking in certain public places, such as the entertainment precincts.'

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# Additional reporting by Valerie Wang