Nothing gets us out of the office faster than news of a good party in town. It has been a fun 10 years of boozing, grooving, attempts (sometimes futile) at getting the number of the cutie sitting next to us, and (alright, we admit it) making a total mess of ourselves. Getting all emotional and nostalgic, we, veteran clubbers at I-S, pat our beer (and champagne) tummies sentimentally and reminiscence on how the after dark hours in Singapore have evolved. With 24-hour club licences now the norm, the partying continues.
In the beginning: Zouk
This is the venue that has packed in clubbers and emerged virtually unscathed from all its ups and downs, including 1995’s controversial drug bust that had it temporarily closed. Fast turning 15 and recently revamped, the heaving and successful Zouk has placed Singapore on the global club map with its showcase of DJs and talents from here and abroad, including names such as Dave Seaman, Yousef and Paul Oakenfold. It remains one of the driving forces in local nightlife. From faithful punters grooving away at the pumping dance floor to the sleek and professional clientele chilling out at Velvet Underground, Zouk is the club every cabbie and every clubber knows by name. Now and forever, amen.
1995-1996: Boat Quay
When we wanted to get away from all the dancefloor action at Zouk, we went over to Boat Quay for a little down time. The longstanding and world renowned Harry’s Bar was, and still is, a surefire bet for accomplished live music sets, and so is Molly Malone’s for a good pint of beer. Although when we felt like boogieing again, we visited the wild and now defunct Escobar for energetic Latin-American tunes and mango Margaritas—filled with anyone and everyone from PMEBs, expatriates and moderately trendy locals. Man, those were the days.
1997-1998: Emerald Hill
For years, Orchard Road has had several nightspots for us to quench our thirst after a hard day’s shopping. One particular enclave is the row of watering holes housed in quaint Peranakan-style shophouses owned by the Emerald Hill Group. We toast loudly to the existence of Ice Cold Beer, No. 5 Emerald Hill, and Que Pasa.
1999-2000: Mohamed Sultan
Small actions say a lot. And in the case of Mohamed Sultan Road, one small action completely changed the face of this once quaint and quiet street. In 1991, Peter Wong set up the small and now defunct watering hole called Front Page. Then Simon Lim started Wong San’s, and soon bars and clubs started mushrooming in the area almost as fast as we could gulp down mugs of beer.
The area exploded around 2000 with the opening of Madam Wong, Sugar, Eden, Nox, Lush and Amoeba. Lapping up the wonderful progressive music and the posh décor of these clubs, party animals like us happily lived it up at the 31 clubs on Singapore’s hippest street. It’s high human traffic meant some clubs, such as Madam Wong, Wong San’s and Amoeba, were as congested as the CTE during peak hour. Today, Eastside and The Siam Supperclub still have their groove on in the area.
2001: Robertson Quay and Club Street
Just a stone’s throw from Mohamed Sultan, Robertson Quay became a hip place to hang out at when the modish Orb, funky Milk Bar (remember those?) and The Liquid Room became popular. Many party goers are still digging the progressive cuts and the very dark house spun at The Liquid Room.
Club Street has also been witness to the opening of several stylish and intimate party venues. Together with posh restaurants, clubs and bars such as Beaujolais Wine Bar, PinkK, Barrio Chino and Bar Sa Vanh gave the area a laidback but sophisticated vibe. Nowadays, it is still the place we head to when we want to lounge on cozy sofas and rest our tired three-inch heels.
2001-2002: One Fullerton
Even as it was dubbed by many opinionated clubbers as a Zouk-wannabe (which we partially agree), sleek Centro was also packing them in 2001 through 2002 with a selection of superstar DJs such as James Lavelle, Chris Coco, Roger Sanchez and Nick Warren. It was the period when big international DJ names were de rigueur, and Centro certainly cashed in on the trend with a respectable line-up. But it wasn’t long before expensive DJs became passé, and even Centro’s sister outlets such as the Velvet Underground-influenced Lola and the trendy chill-out haven Embargo couldn’t pull in fickle local punters. That said, Centro was utterly memorable while it lasted—gyrating on its ample platform were some of the highlights in our decade-old nightlife diary.
2003: SARS year
Not much happened, really.
2004: Emerald Hill, again
New dance clubs such as Rouge and lounge bars Alley Bar and Acid Bar open up and become hits with nightlife enthusiasts looking for new hotspots to party at. Rouge is good for its quality house sounds, while the easy vibes at Acid bar attract beautiful executives.
2005: Clarke Quay
Who would have thought the family-oriented Clarke Quay of the ‘90s and early ‘00s would evolve into a burgeoning nightlife and dining area today? While one or two edgy underground DJ gigs were held at the mostly R&B establishments there a few years ago, the old Clarke Quay has since moved on, and is more cosmopolitan today.
There are several notable clubs here: Attica’s clientele includes models, socialites and fashionistas. As such, it is the place to head to if you choose to groove with eye candy to house music. We find Forbidden City equally sinful, with its exotic and chic Chinese décor. Gotham Penthouse is another party venue we’ve indulged in for thumping house music. Last but not least, the sprawling Ministry of Sound (MOS), which opened in December 2005, has been bringing in international acts such as Jack McCord, Damian Saint and Buff Wise, creating waves—and very long queues—in our nightlife scene.
The good thing about Clarke Quay is that it houses good live acts venues as well. The 1NiteStand Bar & Comedy Club showcases international comedians regularly, Crazy Elephant dishes out soulful blues and rock numbers, while Crazy Horse Paris welcomes everyone (above 21 years) with open arms to learn about “the art of the nude.”
The crowd has become more eclectic of late and we gladly note Clarke Quay is still pulsating with great music and great hangouts, and is very much alive.
Laidback and trendy bars Balcony at Orchard Road and Loof at Odeon Towers are in right now, with their cool downtempo music selection, yummy finger food and unique settings. Balcony is located at hip shopping center The Heeren, while Loof is Singapore’s first upmarket rooftop bar that plays host to the latest, trendiest parties in town. It seems that partying at the heart of town is rocking again. Yeah!