Battle of the Nightclubs

The local nightlife arena is going to be firing this year, with no less than two new major clubs opening next month, including Q Bar at The Arts House and The Butter Factory at Riverside 48, and the mammoth St James Power Station, scheduled to launch in November at the Harbourfront. These developments come hot on the heels of newer bars and clubs, such as Balcony at The Heeren and Ministry of Sound (MOS) at Clarke Quay, opening in the past three months. Meanwhile, the reigning force on the river, Zouk, went through a major renovation to head off the slew of young insurgents. I-S infiltrates these fortresses of secrecy to find out how they plan to do battle in what is turning out to be the Year of the Nightclubs.

Ministry of Sound (MOS)

Firepower: 6
Turf: The Cannery, a disused pineapple cannery, at Clarke Quay.
Artillery: 500 strong staff, including the marketing and operations team and bar crew.
The Generals: Executive Director Clement Lee and Marketing Manager Calvin Sio.
Battle Plan: Don’t call it a Zouk copycat. MOS, standing at over 40,000sq.ft., is setting itself up to be one of the most popular nightspots in town, and features no less than six dance rooms for punters to party in. Early comparison to Zouk is inevitable. After all, both clubs are targeting savvy dance music lovers who know their progressive house to tech house, and are billed as two of the city’s more sophisticated club venues. Set up in November last year with a budget of $7 million, MOS, which is an offshoot from the already established club in the UK, features house DJs straight from the decks of its clubs in London—including Damian Saint and Paul Johnson, known for their fiery house music sets. While MOS’s regular club nights are reminiscent of Zouk’s—like its retro music Candy Floss nights every Wednesday, an obvious cash in on Zouk’s already legendary Mambo Jambo nights—MOS is hoping to get the ball rolling with its own identity. “We don’t just give a full on DJ list like Zouk does, as MOS promises more live dance acts such as Kosheen and Caged Baby that will give punters a whole different experience,” says Marketing Manager Calvin Sio. “Right now, the club is still new, the crowd is still a bit scattered and all over the place, but we have a good mix of credible and commercial crowds that happily co-exist with one another. It’s definitely more balanced than Zouk’s.” With different rooms for clubbers to experience—including the hip hop-driven Smoove and chillout spot Pure—diversity can’t be a bad thing for this massive club.
Victory or Defeat: The hour-long queues outside MOS are testament to the club’s popularity, which draws an average 4,000-5,000 punters each night. On a good night, however, MOS packs in 7,000 clubbers, such as during superstar DJ Darren Emerson’s gig on New Year’s Eve. MOS will certainly be packing them in right until the end of the year at least. Here’s looking forward to more credible DJ names from the club—if it wants to keep up its winning streak.


Firepower: 4
Turf: 17 Jiak Kim St., an old godown.
Artillery: 200 strong staff, including bar crew and part-timers.
The Generals: Director Lincoln Cheng and Marketing Manager Tracy Phillips.
Battle Plan: Even before MOS opened its doors in December, popular dance club Zouk had laid down its battle plan and equipped itself with a S$7 million overhaul to better its venue. Staying put at Jiak Kim and dispelling early rumors that the club is moving elsewhere, Zouk unveiled a more contemporary look in late November, to positive response. The design is downright sleek, including a translucent organic tube that graces the club entry archway, funky disco lights at the Phuture room, and more Pop artworks at Velvet Underground. But Zouk’s Marketing Manager Tracy Phillips will have you know that it is the quality dance music here and various parties that make the club. “This year, our selection of gigs and events are as open minded as ever, walking the fine balance of entertaining, yet boundary pushing at the same time,” she says. “Some things to look out for are Zouk’s massive 15th anniversary celebrations, our madcap series of Very theme parties, the edgy Fashion Trilogy Wardrobe, our resident nights by the DJs who do it best, and big DJ names—everyone from Paul Van Dyk to DJ Craze to current DJ team of the moment Tiefschwarz—as well as various interdisciplinary collaborations.” It is all about creating a savvy music community at Zouk, termed “Zoukettes,” and about “creating the best possible clubbing experience and sharing our passion and vision, and our constant re-investment and reinvention,” adds Phillips. “Its funny, but we’re our own biggest competition, as we always want to better ourselves after 14 amazing years.”
Victory or Defeat: Once a Zoukette, always a Zoukette. More sophisticated clubbers are still frequenting Zouk, even if MOS is trying hard to win over some of its quality crowd. The next few months will be crucial as to whether Zouk regulars will convert to MOS.

St James Power Station

Firepower: 5
Turf: The old power station, the St James Powerhouse, at the Harbourfront.
Artillery: 300 strong staff, including bar crew.
The Generals: Chief Executive Officer Dennis Foo and Chief Operating Officer Andrew Ing.
Battle Plan: The nine-in-one St James Power Station, which only opens in November, is already creating a buzz among local punters and industry observers. Not least because the men behind the lofty 60,000sq.ft. Power Station are Andrew Ing, best known for elevating Zouk to its revered status from the mid ’90s to the early Noughties, before he stepped down as marketing manager; and nightlife veteran Dennis Foo (Devil’s Bar). All eyes are on Ing and the $30 million venue that may make, or break, it within the local nightlife arena. Rather than cashing in on current club trends, this temple of music will consist of nine different outlets, including a live music area, a world music bar, a restaurant and a karaoke space, among many others. Distinguishing itself from dance clubs MOS and Zouk, the Power Station’s focus “will not be club music, but rather, live music,” says Ing. “There is no point for me to go head on with either MOS or Zouk, because there’s no point to fight against the major institutions. MOS has already affected all the clubs in town—the big boys as well as the smaller ones—because it’s a monstrosity. My focus at St James Power Station is to create a culture of its own, where everyone who comes will be ensured of a good time, as there will always be something different going on every day.” To be opened in various stages from November, the Power Station will not only have in-house DJs and live bands, butaerialists, dancers and performance artists as well. Ing also plans to bring in imported bands and live music acts—after all, he was responsible for Primal Scream, Grace Jones and Bjork, who performed at Zouk in the ’90s.
Victory or Defeat: If all goes as planned, St James Power Station should be a huge hit, especially among jaded punters who are looking for an alternative venue that is not just another dance club.

Club Momo

Firepower: 2
Turf: #01-02/03 Central Mall, 5 Magazine Rd., in an old warehouse.
Artillery: 100 strong staff, including bar crew.
The Generals: Managing Director John Lee and Assistant Marketing Manager Sheila Naidu.
Battle Plan: The 19,000sq.ft. Club Momo may not be the most sophisticated club in town, but since it opened in July last year, the club has garnered a stable following  that includes PMEBs and younger executives looking for a good time. No least because Momo has been playing host to some of the most commercial parties in town, such as the Singapore Ford’s Supermodel parties, and various events headlined by MediaCorp. The fact that Momo also boasts a huge dance floor that predominantly plays commercial dance anthems, a live music room, a sports bar and an attractive boudoir-like setting, invites regulars to go back for more. “We have a great crowd of cool local people that regularly hang out and party here,” says Managing Director John Lee. “This is their second home, as they feel comfortable and relaxed…and our music policy supplies maximum fun.” To stay ahead of the competition, Lee will be opening another Club Momo in Jakarta next month, as competition within the local clubbing scene heats up. “There are a lot of clubs and pubs in Singapore, and the term ‘the more the merrier’ is simply not true,” adds Lee. “The nightlife scene is very overcrowded and with MOS coming in with such a large venue, it will certainly cause a ripple in the market. But we have not been affected by
MOS. In fact we have seen a rise in our headcount as we are just across the bridge from the club.”
Victory or Defeat: Even with intense competition, Momo seems to be able to hold its turf, although its music selection could be edgier. One also wonders if Lee will be focusing on Club Momo in Jakarta, and spend less time grooming the establishment here. Only time will tell.

The Butter Factory

Firepower: 1
Turf: #01-03 Riverside, 48 Robertson Quay, next to the Singapore Tyler Print Institute.
Artillery: 30 strong staff, including bar crew.
The Generals: Creative Director Bobby Luo and Marketing Director Celeste Chong.
Battle Plan: After a long break, the crew behind kitschy dance club Cocco Latte, which has since been taken over by Donovan Wong from Kinemat, is set to open a new concept by the end of next month. Kitschy or otherwise, the upcoming The Butter Factory plans to raise the bar over its predecessor, as there will be two major dance rooms in the club: The main floor, where DJs will spin mostly hip hop, R&B, funk, soul
and old-school tunes, and the ART bar, where more niche and cuttingedge music including electro, house, rock and indie, can be heard. “We’re hoping to be a slightly more upmarket and classier hip hop club,” says Celeste Chong. “There will be a good mix of clubbers, but we’re still hoping the core group will be young working adults.” While it seems that The Butter Factory may be cashing in on Cocco Latte’s preceding formula, this 4,000sq.ft. club is also looking at holding special themed parties, including various DJ gigs from the likes of Japanese DJs Yutaka and Satochin, who will be performing during the club’s official opening. As for those who are into schmoozing and lounging, there is a Moët & Chandon VIP lounge area where invited guests can park themselves. If the marketing team’s previous parties are anything to go by—including the one on board the Harbour Queen yacht at Keppel Marina on Christmas eve—these are early indications of better things to come.
Victory or Defeat: Its location, which is not very far from mega clubs MOS, Liquid Room and Club Momo, may prove to be a disadvantage, but The Butter Factory is the place to be if you’re looking for a fun crowd and even more convivial music sets.

Q Bar

Firepower: 1
Turf: The Arts House Annex, in the Old Parliament House.
Artillery: 30 strong staff, including bar crew.
The Generals: Directors Simon Lim and David Jacobson, and Co-owner David Chin.
Battle Plan: Taking over the defunct Café Society, expectations are riding high on Q Bar, as its predecessors—the world famous Q Bars in Ho Chi Minh city and  Bangkok—have shaped bar culture in Asia for more than a decade. Q Bar Singapore will encapsulate the colonial essence of the original Q Bar Ho Chi Minh as well as the underground, clubby vibe of Q Bar Bangkok. Comprising three main areas—the DJ lounge, bar and al fresco deck—Q Bar is set to be one of the most talked about bars in town when it opens later this month. The bar’s emphasis is its well-concocted drinks menu: Specialties include cocktails and premium spirits, including hard-to-find vodkas, single malts and aged tequilas. “We are going to settle in and allow Q Bar Singapore to organically develop its personality,” says Simon Lim. “In the long run, we are hoping to instill a bar culture that seems to be sorely missing in Singapore. Theme parties will become a part of Q Bar Singapore, although not necessarily a mainstay. You have the vast clubs and small pubs in Singapore, but nothing really falls in between these two. Q Bar will fill this void with ease.” While other details about the bar are being kept under wraps, Lim assures us that “distinctive structure and edgy design will make Q Bar a destination bar that local and international crowds will appreciate. The décor will be vibrant and multi-textured—definitely out of the norm.”
Victory or Defeat: Director Simon Lim is the man behind some of Singapore’s longest running bars such as Wong San’s, Siam Supperclub and Chinablack. If all goes as planned, Q Bar should remain a distinctive fixture in our fickle nightlife scene for more than a few years.

Liquid Room

Firepower: 1
Turf: Robertson Quay, at the end of Mohamed Sultan Road, beside Gallery Hotel.
Artillery: 50 strong staff, including bar crew.
The Generals: Director Chris Tan and Business Development Manager Hannah Teo.
Battle Plan: Liquid Room may be more than five years old, but this clubbing destination is still hot among those in the know. A favorite with hardcore partygoers, as well as expatriates and PMEBs, this smallish establishment, which boasts no more than 5,000sq.ft., packs them in, especially on Saturdays, where revered local DJ KoFlow and MC Garuda hit the floors to bring punters the latest in cutting-edge hip hop. “Our major turn was in March last year, when we converted our main club night on Saturday into a hip hop (Ghetto Blasta) night,” says Hannah Teo. “It used to be that our progressive night sets drew in the most punters, but we needed to move on with the times.” But that doesn’t mean that Liquid Room has ditched its more persuasive techno and progressive house nights altogether. The very popular Slinky nights are still taking place at the club on a bi-monthly basis, with Dave Lee and John Fleming scheduled to spin later this year; as well as its Frisky! nights, featuring equally pumping tunes by local jocks Stingray and Kenny. “For 2006, our focus is to be consistent with our brand name and what we’re known for. We still want to be seen as one of the market leaders in dance music … but keeping within the spirit of what we do. There will be no changes until further notice.”
Victory or Defeat: Liquid Room has survived more than half a decade doing their own thing, and we won’t be surprised if they last half a decade more, even without further innovation.


Firepower: 1
Turf: #01-13F Esplanade Mall, 8 Raffles Ave. beside Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay.
Artillery: 40 strong staff, including bar crew.
The Generals: Club Manager Johnny Phuah, Operations Manager Salim and Marketing Manager Lim Sin Yee.
Battle Plan: Forget its slightly “obiang” crowd, and DXO actually delivers. Spanning 12,000 sq. feet, the venue features different clubbing and chill-out spaces for different clubbers: X2, the Loft, Barnova, the Nest and Patio. Clubbers can groove the night away at X2 or mellow out at the Nest. There have been rumors that DXO is losing its touch, or that Glutton’s Bay, the food center next to it, is taking away many of its clubbers, but we believe that the party people at DXO are still wild and lovely. The club has brought in numerous DJ acts from Sweden, France, the Czech Republic, UK, Netherlands and USA, such as BoyGeorge, Kid Koala, Jazzanova, Towa Tei, Johnny Fiasco, Paul Harris, Master H, Solace and Tom Stephan. With an eclectic repertoire of music that ranges from retro to progressive house, hip hop to trance, it is no wonder Marketing Manager Lim claims “Every musical voyage at DXO is always a delight and never quite the same, and will tease partygoers into ecstasy this year.”
Victory or Defeat: If DXO brings in more big names in the international DJing scene this year, more people will flock to its dance floor. Here’s looking forward to a more eclectic lineup.


Firepower: 1
Turf: #01-75A Millenia Singapore, 9 Raffles Blvd.
Artillery: 30, including bar crew.
The General: Managing Director Michel Lu.
Battle Plan: The controversial Michel Lu returns after his last fiasco that was dance club Centro, which abruptly closed in 2004 because of rent issues. Before his new little dance space Hacienda opens later this year at Dempsey Road, the more intimate and smaller Suba, essentially a chill-out bar, is already drawing in expatriates and media types to its 2,500sq.ft. space. Named after the late legendary bossa nova musician Suba, this stylish space may not be a behemoth like the 22,000sq.ft. Centro, but its strength lies in its dark interior which sets the mood, and quality downtempo tunes. The decor is chic but not intimidating: Gorgeous textured wallpapers stand next to intricate light fixtures, including five specially commissioned all black crystal chandeliers, alongside a nine-meter-long oxidized brass bar. Music comes courtesy of DJs Ramesh K and Titus, who spin a cool blend of classic disco, soul and funk. “What makes the bar tick is its sleek combination of sexy music, intimate interior, and delectable drinks and bar bites,” says Lu.
Victory or Defeat: While Suba is cool, its main competition is nearby Balaclava at Suntec City, which is always packed to the brim. One only hopes that Michel Lu gets his formula right this time and doesn’t repeat his Centro disaster.


Firepower: 1
Turf: A brand new outdoor annex at #01-K5/#02-03 The Heeren, 260 Orchard Rd.
Artillery: 30 strong staff, including bar crew.
The Generals: Executive Director Clement Lee, Marketing Manager Calvin Sio and Bar Manager Georgia Oi.
Battle Plan: Having just debuted in November last year, this 4,000sq.ft. bar may be a baby, but it’s fast getting into the swing of things. Not surprising, considering its numerous swings and rocking chairs have been an absolute delight to many regulars since the day it opened. Glamorous swingers caught in the act include celebrities Irene Gan, Christopher Lee, Ann Kok, Felicia Tan, Jeff Wong, Bernard Lim, Glenn Ong and Dick Lee. This small bar has also managed to snatch some renowned DJs to its turntables. DJ Ravin from Mauritius and Pete Gooding from Ibiza are two of its top steals. Its resident DJs Has and Norman, two cool guys who play an eclectic mix of down tempo sounds with dashes of soul and funky house, have also garnered a local fan base. It seems that Balcony’s battle plans for 2006 are not exactly drawn up, but Marketing Manager Calvin Sio says: “We are still planning. We’re looking at bringing in acts that will gel with the entire concept of Balcony.” However, with their awesome signature Margaritas and jelly cocktails, we must say they have some potent chemical weaponry up their sleeves. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why, despite the growing competition, Sio quips, “We’ve amassed a really good regular crowd consisting of young professionals and working adults, and we anticipate with regular events and activities, the business will grow in 2006.”
Victory or Defeat: Young it may be, Balcony is a mean and sexy chillout venue that is good for people-watching too. With its appealing decor and drinks, it just might get more people into the art of swinging—at Balcony, that is.


Firepower: 1
Turf: Odeon Towers Extension Rooftop on North Bridge Rd., oppositeRaffles Hotel.
Artillery: 20 strong staff, including bar crew.
The Generals: Director Teng and General Manager Terry Goh.
Battle Plan: This 4,000sq.ft. new addition to rooftop bars, comprising both indoor and outdoor areas, is fast attracting a faithful following. The playful people at Loof poke fun at everyone, including themselves. From the name of the bar to the interiors, you just can’t miss its casual and laidback attitude. As Terry Goh quips: “The pronunciation of the letter R has somehow managed to continually beleaguer most Singaporeans. We played with the word “roof ” and came up with the name “Loof,” a tongue-in-cheek reflection of the idiosyncrasies of local speech and culture.” Some big names in the local design names who have helped to fashion the stylish interiors include Asylum’s Chris Lee, Michelle Tan and Edwin Tan. DJ Ndy delivers an eclectic mix of down tempo electronica, funk and soul that invites everyone to chill. Loof has also played host to a few corporate parties since its inception and hopes to throw more outrageous events in 2006. Armed with cheeky silhouettes, falling leaves and panoramic views of the city, Goh confidently adds “Loof will reign victorious in 2006.”
Victory or Defeat: The quirky concepts and smart humor behind Loof save it from being just another rooftop bar. Its central location just opposite Raffles Hotel might also help it excel in 2006.