A popular Singapore restaurant, which serves South Indian food, was fined 10,000 dollars (USD 7,490) on Wednesday for breaching COVID-19 safety measures by hosting a birthday party for 40 people with a self-service buffet, according to a media report. The Banana Leaf Apolo restaurant chain, which has been operating in Singapore since 1974 and is popular for its fish-head curry, pleaded guilty to two charges of breaching COVID-19 regulations.
Three similar charges were taken into consideration by District Judge Ng Cheng Thiam during sentencing. These charges are for allowing 40 people to gather at the 48 Serangoon Road restaurant on September 12 last year, and for allowing some of them to make speeches, according to a Channel News Asia report.
The court heard that the restaurant accepted a booking for the group for a birthday celebration on the second floor. Safe distancing ambassadors reported that there was a large group of people celebrating on the second floor. According to the ambassadors, as well as what was captured on closed-circuit television, the customers talked and mingled across tables without a 1-metre safe distance, and the tables and chairs were placed close together. Customers helped themselves to food at the buffet and served it to others, and none of the employees told them not to do this. Deputy Public Prosecutor Stephanie Koh categorised this as "a serious breach", as the event lasted four hours and involved a large group of people who intermingled in close proximity.
"This was an event that did pose a high risk of transmission of the virus and could have been a cluster if anyone was infected," said Koh. She said there was "no reason" for the restaurant to accept such a large booking given the COVID-19 restrictions. They did not have measures to manage the movement of customers, and instead, facilitated some breaches by providing equipment, she added.
The restaurant manager, who was not named in the report, said in court, "We would like to apologise for what happened and we have taken a lot of measures to ensure that this doesn't happen ever again, sir." The Singapore Tourism Board filed a magistrate's complaint against the restaurant chain on January 20 this year over its multiple breaches during the pandemic.
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