The tragic tale of how a bar folded barely even before it began

My little bar is (or rather was) located at 29 Dalhousie Lane, on the outskirts of Little India and within proximity of Rochor MRT station. My younger brother, sister, alongside two other close friends of mine were the founding members of this bar. All of us are still full-time university students, except for my sister who is still awaiting her ‘A’-Level results.

We had saved up for approximately 2 years, collectively, as well as taken up significant loans from our parents to fund the bar's startup costs, which totaled nearly S$180,000. Happily, and filled with naïve idealism, we opened our doors on 6 May 2021, amidst what seemed like a hopeful rebound towards an endemic “New Normalcy” as promised by the government. Our contractors even planned for 8-seaters within the bar itself, given that 8-pax dining was permitted back then.

First Closure

On the fourth day of our opening, we were slapped with a ten-day closure plus a S$1,000 fine, these owing to Safe Distancing Enforcement Officers having purportedly caught six diners gathered together, on the same day a new rule reducing dining limits to 5 pax per group was gazetted.

We had indeed broken the letter of the law through our negligence, nevertheless I regret the magnitude and harshness of its consequences being levied upon us, especially given our utter inexperience as first timer F&B entrepreneurs. I’m sure there are others like me out there, who, while admittedly concur that inexperience is inexcusable for non-compliance with existing regulations, would still very much appreciate the authorities cutting us some slack at their discretion instead of going the whole nine yards. Reluctantly, we accepted the punishments meted out and chose not to air our grievances.

Notably, this incident occurred 2 days prior to Minister Lawrence Wong announcing the implementation of Phase 2 Heightened Alert which banned dining-in altogether. The officers who dealt with us decided to only impose the closure order a day after P2HA was lifted, thus extending our “circuit-breaker” for another 10 days. Suffice to say this prolonged hellish experience severely drained our bank accounts, forcing us to cut back on part-time hires and personally taking on miscellaneous roles without pay.

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