Building a Ferris wheel inside a nightclub is just the beginning

The opening of Marquee Singapore—a massive three-storey, 2,300 sqm nightclub taking over what was once a theatre in Marina Bay Sands—heralded a new dawn for the local nightlife scene.

The biggest of its kind here, the club houses four full-service bars, a near floor-to-ceiling high-definition LED screen, a life-sized eight-cabin Ferris wheel, two adrenaline-inducing spiraling tube slides, and more. Not to mention the big names in EDM that graced its opening nights, ranging from Tiesto on its April 12 grand opening to the likes of Steve Aoki and Kaskade following closely after.

Marquee is certainly a showstopper here. While this anchor concept from Tao Group (who first brought us Lavo Singapore in Jan 2018) will easily be entertaining us for years to come, they’re not stopping there.

Soon to open are Avenue (May 2019) and Koma (2H2019), the former a fun and swanky lounge with its own drive-through entrance, and the latter a Kyoto-inspired modern Japanese restaurant and sushi bar. A Tao Group loyalty app that ties together all their concepts—over 30 of them in New York, Las Vegas, Sydney, Los Angeles, Chicago, and of course Singapore—will also soon launch.

We took a peek inside the mind of Jason Strauss, co-founder of Tao Group (alongside Noah Tepperberg), and found out how Singapore fits in with the expansion of his nightlife empire.


Marquee Singapore

After openings in cities around the world, why have you chosen Singapore as your next focal point?

The reason we chose Singapore with Lavo being the first here at the roof of MBS, is because our Vegas partners that we have restaurants, pool clubs and nightclubs with in Vegas, Las Vegas Sands, is the parent company of MBS.

With such a great relationship with them, and we’ve done so well as a partnership there, they said please come see what we do in Singapore. For seven years, we’ve been coming here, figuring out how to masterplan something that would be a good fit for Tao Group and MBS. We have now finally, after many years, figured it out, and almost done with all four venues that are coming here, the anchor being Marquee.

Are there any major differences opening here compared to other big cities?

This is unique because we are in this building. Every time to go to a new market there are new nuances, but the good news is that we’ve got a lot of support from MBS. There’s an amazing in-house team here that supports us on everything from construction to marketing to all the infrastructure we need to staffing a great team. This is particularly helpful because we have a great partner supporting us even while we’re building. This has been a better opening because we have a real partner helping us day-to-day. Sometimes we’re just alone in a four-walled building, like in Chicago.

All your concepts are open in MBS. Are there plans to venture outside of MBS?

We have a lot of expansion planned in the United States, especially New York. As far as Asia is concerned, we are really focused on Singapore right now. We really want to make sure this works. We’re not thinking about anything else other than this building and our four venues. We are always open to possibilities, but right now we are laser-focused on Singapore.

Lavo was the first opening for Tao in Singapore. How has that been so far?

I think it has been great. We have done some amazing events up there. We’ve had some amazing people come through because they know the brand, they know us internationally. Every single week the numbers get better and every week we’re introducing new concepts, new food, and our Saturday Soiree supper club party has grown dramatically from the day we rolled it out. Not to mention the view is unmatched.


Grand opening night at Marquee

Marquee is going to be the anchor venue as you mentioned. What makes you so confident to invest into such a huge space here and make it a success?

When you see the space, it’s very dramatic; it has the 80 ft ceilings, the 60 ft LED screens, the photobooth Ferris wheel. But if you really look at the space, it’s a very intimate space. It’s not that big of a nightclub. It’s actually smaller than the Marquee in Vegas but the drama here is twice what we have there. We have built something completely iconic and is ahead of its time, nightlife wise. If we execute on all cylinders, I think the experience we create here will be unmatched. People all over Singapore will make this their new nightlife home, and people all over the region will come and visit. With that, I think we have a really good shot at success.

Tell me about the process behind bringing in this massive Ferris wheel.

We realize that nightlife has changed. It’s not only about going out and getting together. It’s about being together but then capturing that and pushing it back digitally to memorialise the great time you had. What better way to do that than through unique experiences. And what will be more unique than a Ferris wheel in a nightclub? It took a dramatic amount of engineering and a lot of pain figuring it out, but when we did, the drama and the wow was worth it.


Avenue

What can we expect from Avenue?

Avenue will be its own venue with its own entrance, but also connected to Marquee at the same time. It will be a really cool, sexy lounge with a lot of fun activities. It’ll also be first in class in mixology, and I promise you it’ll be the sexiest design out of any lounge in Singapore. The design, the fixtures and the way it flows, it’s probably one of the best in the entire [Tao Group] portfolio of over 30 venues.

And Koma?

It’s going to be a dramatic Japanese restaurant and sushi bar. We are really excited to launch that because it’s going to be a brand we’re starting in Singapore. Most of our brands come from New York then it goes to other markets, but Koma is a brand we’re creating exclusively for Singapore. We’ll build it on the authenticity of Asian and Japanese cuisine, hopefully impress Singaporeans with our food, and if it all goes well, we’ll bring it back to the US as a Singaporean brand.


Koma

What motivated you to take such a step, deviating from what you usually do?

The backdrop is we knew the theatre space was so big we can’t just make it one giant nightclub. If it’s too big we’ll only be able to fill it during Formula 1 or other major holidays. We made the footprint of the club manageable in our eyes, and with what was left we saw an opportunity to do a restaurant.

The concept though is we want this to be a one-stop-shop. We want you to have this amazing, sexy Japanese sushi meal, like we do in New York with our other brands, and then have one of our guest relations people walk you into the nightclub to dance, have a drink, or have a bottle service table afterwards for a full experience. We’ve had a lot of success with that in the US.

Any key demographics you’re targeting at?

In all our venues we’re looking for diversity; with that comes the best energy. Our primary focus is going after the Singaporean nightlife community, people who go out to party. The local crowd is our priority. We’ve brought on an amazing local PR team, local in-house marketing team, we’ve hired great front-of-house people that are big names in the Singaporean nightlife scene. We’re making sure that when you come here, the people who live here will feel like this is a home and not a place that just tourists go to. But of course, we do think that we’ve built something so iconic that people all over the region will come and be part of this also.

Will you be offering any loyalty programme for your many concepts here?

We’re very close to launching our Tao Group loyalty app. All our venues will be in it, so we’re not just building loyalty here but if a Marquee Singapore guest goes to LA, Chicago, New York or Sydney, they’ll be able to participate in the rewards programme. I don’t think there’s any other group with nightlife and stylized restaurants in those markets, so it’ll be unique. It’s supposed to be done within the next three months.

Are you bringing in any other concepts to Singapore?

After four brands, I think we have a big job making sure we execute on the gracious hospitality and the management goals, so I won’t expect anything too soon. But if things go well and our partners at MBS wanna extend other ideas, we are completely committed to the partnership here.

Is it right to say that you’re a party animal?

People say that, but at 45, no. Maybe when I was your age. Truth is, right now at this stage of the company, Noah and I are doing a lot of development and growth. We’re spending our time doing that and a lot less hosting. But at least one or twice a week I make sure I’m in the nightclubs enjoying myself.


Marquee Singapore is located at B1-67 The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, open on all eve of public holidays and Fri-Sat, 10pm till late.