Zoning laws in Johor stifling, says night spot operators

JOHOR BARU: Entertainment industry players want the state government to do away with zoning laws that restrict their operations so that their business can grow and contribute to the Johor-Singapore Special Economic Zone (JS-SEZ).

Johor Entertainment Outlet Operators Association chairman Tan Yam Meng said such outlets were only allowed to operate in specific zones, which hindered their development.

“The policy came into effect about seven years ago and involves premises in the Johor Baru City Council and Iskandar Puteri City Council areas,” he said.

He cited Taman Pelangi as an example where entertainment outlets were only allowed to operate in specific streets, adding that the zone was also quite small.

“This caused issues for existing entertainment outlet owners, who had been operating in locations outside the specified zone (before the law was implemented), when they tried to renew their business licence.

“Many were forced to relocate, close shop or face fines because they were no longer allowed to operate there,” he told The Star.

“I believe Johor is the only state that has such zoning restrictions. I hope the state government can be more open and consider lifting it as we are gearing up for the JS-SEZ to boost the state and country’s economic growth.”

Tan said the entertainment industry could bring spillover effects to small and medium enterprises, adding that they should not be viewed as a “high-risk” sector.

He noted that entertainment outlets in Thailand and Vietnam were allowed to remain open until 4am, which could attract more tourists and business opportunities.

“The entertainment outlets in Johor cannot operate past midnight. On weekends, we can operate until 2am, but with a hefty fee,” he said.

The association, which has more than 200 members, had highlighted these issues to local councils a few years ago, he said.

Tan said he raised the matter with state executive council member Ling Tian Soon during the association’s anniversary dinner on May 18 and hoped that their request could be taken seriously.

Ling said he had taken note of the association’s request.

“The JS-SEZ, once implemented, will be a big boost for our economic development involving various industries such as services, manufacturing and tourism. The entertainment industry can also benefit from it.

“At the same time, the industry should work towards improving its image to fight off negative perceptions that the public may have towards them,” he added.

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