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Old 7th January 2011, 08:12 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Saturated scene

Saturated scene

With more nightspots opening, clubs have to differentiate themselves.

By Germaine Lim
Fri, Jan 07, 2011
The New Paper

Good news for partygoers: At least four new nightspots will open here this year.

Among them, US clubs Pangaea and Avalon, both of which will be at Marina Bay Sands (MBS), are arguably the most highly-anticipated, having announced their arrivals last March.

In the US, Pangaea is known to be a playground for celebrities such as US singer Madonna and actress Cameron Diaz, while the eight-year-old Avalon in Hollywood has hosted annual parties for the Oscars, the Emmys and the MTV Music Awards.

Originally scheduled to open late last year, Pangaea is now slated to open in May while Avalon aims to start operating in the second quarter of the year, the clubs' operators told The New Paper.

Delays have been attributed to the construction of the Crystal Pavilion, which will house both clubs, Pangaea's founder and operator Michael Ault said.

The 47-year-old American currently runs the five-year-old Pangaea Florida and Austin's Phoenix club.

In the third quarter of this year, St James Holdings, which runs St James Power Station, will add two megaclubs to its stable of 17, its chief executive Dennis Foo said.

But all eyes will be on Pangaea and Avalon when their doors finally swing open, and their operators know it. After all, foreign brands like Crazy Horse and Ministry Of Sound have come, and failed.

Mr Ault, who has more than 25 years' experience and is a household name in New York's nightlife scene, said: "I think a lot of local players are already placing their bets against us and that's natural. If I hadn't ever opened a club in a foreign market, I would be intimidated.

"Foreign brands that have been here were licensing deals which don't work.

"MBS made it clear that it doesn't want a repeat of the failed nightspots. The owners and founders have to be on the ground to operate the clubs - and Steve (of Avalon) and I agree completely."

Both he and Mr Steve Adelman, 46, have relocated from the US to Singapore.

Mr Adelman said: "I certainly can say that we will do our best to entertain people at the highest level we know how, with a diverse offering of being a dance club, concert venue and special events location."

Mr Adelman, who has been in the nightlife business in the US since the 1990s, has promoted New York nightspots like Limelight, The Roxy and The Tunnel.

But what is delightful news for partygoers may not be music to the ears of industry players.

Singapore has more than 1,200 entertainment outlets here, according to a report in The Straits Times in May last year.


Last year alone, at least 15new clubs including live music venue Tab, rooftop bar Lantern and Thai-style club Titanium sprung up.

Popular specialty cocktail bar Klee at Portsdown Road closed early last month, though it denied it was a casualty of competition.

Mr Edward Chia, 27, managing director of Timbre Group, which owns Klee, explained it is merely relocating to a yet-to-be-confirmed venue because the Portsdown Road premises was not "big enough to accommodate a full-size kitchen".

But while industry players admit that competition is getting stiffer, they also say: bring it on. Ku De Ta, another foreign club brand at MBS, remains unfazed.

Mr Dan Segall, who is its executive chef and oversees operations, said: "Anything that draws more people to MBS is good for us."

Industry players say that while the market is crowded, there is still room for diversification. Mr Foo, 57, said: "People have told me that the local scene is mind-boggling and so competitive for a small population like ours.

"Yes, I agree it is crowded. That's also why the quality of our nightlife scene is so good. Every player has to remain relevant."

Filter club, which opened in September, admitted that some of its clientele will "inevitably... want to enjoy a new nightlife experience and we are prepared for that," director Phillip Poon, 33, said.

He said: "Every time a new venue opens, it forces everyone in the nightlife market to push the boundaries further."

Take it from the sage, Zouk's owner, Mr Lincoln Cheng.

The nightspot is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year and is the only local club to have won Singapore Tourism Board's Best Nightspot Experience award eight times.

It is also the only Asian club to have a consistent top 10 placing in the influential DJ Mag's Top 100 Clubs In The World list.

The 61-year-old said: "Clubs need their clubbers more than the clubbers need them.

"History has shown that the local nightlife industry is a fickle creature and that today's darling could be tomorrow's has-been. All new clubs should aim to keep interest in their products sustained and strive to build up a loyal following."

As a result, to enthral and retain clubbers, existing clubs are pulling more tricks out of their bags.

One method is by offering live entertainment.

In November, Zouk launched its quarterly Zouk Live concert series with performances by US synth-pop band The Chromatics and electropop duo Glass Candy.

Similarly, Helipad at The Central has added live bands to its usual repertoire of deejay sets. Conversely, some have done away with the formula that got them noted in the first place.

In October, Mandopop club Lunar Asian Fusion Bar removed its popular live entertainment concept and increased the number of dancers from 15 to 20.

Sexy coyote dancers, once an accompaniment to singers, have a more prominent role with more solo performances now.

And in August, St James Power Station expanded into F&B, with the opening of Wine Bar & Bistro. It continues to do so at the end of this month when it unveils Food Republic Beer Garden @ St James, a 929sqm hawker centre at what is now the complex's carpark facing VivoCity shopping mall.

The hawker centre will feature 18 old-fashioned pushcarts and will be open daily from 6pm to 3am. It will be able to seat up to 400 people.

Mr Foo denied that he is diversifying the business in the face of increasing competition. But he admitted that "competition keeps everyone on their toes".


"Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth". - 1 John 3:18
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