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Old 19th February 2013, 11:06 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Thai Thai must try!

Thai Thai must try!

Nightclub veteran Dennis Foo, who used to deride Thai discos as the ?flower shop business?, has opened one.

Benson Ang
Tue, Feb 19, 2013
The New Paper


SINGAPORE - Nightclub tycoon Dennis Foo rarely eats his words.

But last year, he gobbled down what he had said about Thai discos and boldly ventured into what he calls the "flower shop" business, referring to the garlands common at such nightspots.

And his new Thai disco Neverland II is already raking in big bucks in its first five months.

Sales figures for December alone last year come close to $1m, better than Dragonfly, which it replaced, says Mr Foo.

He had been uncomfortable for a long time with the idea of Thai discos as a business model, since most Singaporeans do not speak or understand Thai.

But in recent years, Thai discos have competed for attention from his Mandopop clubs, Shanghai Dolly at Clarke Quay and Dragonfly at St James Power Station.

In media interviews then, Mr Foo, not one to mince his words, had spoken harshly of the clubs.

But the 59-year-old chief executive of St James Holdings has now done a complete U-turn, partly because of his son, Gordon.

Says the younger Mr Foo: "The philosophy is simple - if you can't beat them, join them."

Neverland II opened last October and occupies the 10,000 sq ft venue area that used to be Dragonfly.

It is a joint venture with the owners of Club Neverland, at Orchard Plaza, one of the biggest Thai clubs here.

To think that five years ago, when Thai clubs were muscling into the Singaporean entertainment scene, Mr Foo senior had proudly proclaimed: "Ours is a different product".

Just last year, when Thai discos were going "fusion" by using non-Thai performers, he had said: "Thai bars should stick to their own music, unless they want to call themselves something else."

How has he come to embrace something he used to deride?

He says: "That's a tough question. Please give me some time to think about my answer."

Five minutes later, he says: "I made those comments five years ago. That's a long time ago.

"Back then, I didn't understand the allure of Thai clubs. I wondered why people went there when they don't understand Thai. I never expected them to become so popular."

It was only last year, when he visited Club Neverland in Orchard Plaza, that he started to appreciate why Singaporeans liked the pretty Thai dancers, the live music and the culture of patrons buying flower garlands.

He says: "I was impressed by the performers' energy and stage presence.

"They could also sing in Thai, Mandarin, Cantonese and English. Their performance was like a melting pot of all cultures, which I thought was very Singaporean.

"While singing English songs, they also had better diction than performers from other countries."

The experience, he acknowledges, was an eye-opener.

And the idea of opening such a disco came from Gordon, 30, who is also the coordinating director of operations at St James Holdings.

Gordon was introduced to Thai discos - both locally and in Bangkok - three years ago, and he was the one who maintained that they were a viable business model.

Last September, Gordon approached Neverland's founders, Singaporeans Kwek Kon Chun, 33, and Eugene Tin, 34, with a business proposition. Mr Kwek was a schoolmate of Gordon, while he got to know Mr Tin through mutual friends.

A month later, Neverland II was open. It now has 18 Thai performers - 11 singers and seven dancers. The men and women go onstage for four one-hour performances every night. They sing a mix of Mandarin, Cantonese, English and Thai songs.

Like other Thai clubs, customers can buy garlands to show their appreciation for their favourite performers.

The garlands cost $10 to $1,000 and can be given to anyone, from the singers to the waiters.

Mr Gordon Foo himself received a $1,000 garland from a male patron a week ago. He says: "He was a regular who was just very happy that night, and bought me a garland even though I'm not a performer.

"I felt very honoured and special," he adds with a chuckle.

Says Mr Tin, Neverland II's managing partner: "We want to attract not only patrons of Thai clubs, but also mainstream club-goers like young executives."

"That's why our DJs will also spin the top hits, like Gangnam Style and will.i.am's Scream & Shout, featuring Britney Spears."

Not everything about Neverland II is Thai, he qualifies. The waiting staff is local and Thai beer is not available.

Says Mr Tin: "We try to offer the best of everything to our customers, and that means picking and choosing aspects which we think our customers will like.

"We are focusing on live entertainment, which has always been our core business."

Mr Wyman Lee, Neverland II's general manager, says: "We will also draw from outside influences, like K-pop-style dance moves.

The 32-year-old adds: "During the DJ sets, our professional dancers will also perform freestyle on the podiums to create a party vibe, much like the feel you can experience in high-end clubs in Las Vegas and Ibiza."

The performers at Dragonfly moved to Shanghai Dolly, St James' other Mandopop club, last October and business there has improved by 30 per cent since.

So is Mr Foo finally eating his own words about Thai discos?

He would only say: "I think humility is a part of the hospitality industry.

"I've always considered myself a mainstream guy. Now that Thai clubs are popular, it's only logical to try to expand into this new market."

"Yes, I've turned Dragonfly into Neverland II, but it seems like every Mandopop venue is already becoming a 'flower shop' (with the hanging of garlands) these days.

"They number by the hundreds. Only Shanghai Dolly has not."

He says: "That's the decision of the market. But I still believe there are audiences who would still appreciate the original Mandopop culture, where they don't hang garlands.

"There is certainly value in keeping them around."

Source: http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest%...18-402856.html

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Old 20th February 2013, 09:33 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Show your love, buy a garland

Show your love, buy a garland


Thai Disco at Golden Mile Complex

Thai discos are popping up rapidly in Singapore.

Tue, Feb 19, 2013
The New Paper


SINGAPORE - Thai discos are popping up faster than you can say Sawadee (a Thai greeting).

This is thanks to their growing popularity with 30-something, mostly Chinese-speaking, working professionals.

There are reportedly at least 20 such discos here, including Club Nana at Magazine Road and Pure Thai Disco at Golden Mile Complex.

Some have a resident live band, an Asian-fusion repertoire, and employ non-Thai performers like those from Taiwan, South Korea and China.

Thai club venues are busiest on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. They often stay open till as late as 6am, and the crowd gets thick - especially after 3am, when these discos get the spillover of clubbers from nightspots that have closed.

Here, you can buy garlands - which can be as cheap as $10 - for your favourite singers. You can also buy them sashes, which range from $50 to $1,000.

Don't be surprised or dumbstruck if your favoured performer suddenly comes to your table after the set. It is a common practice for them to "thank" customers who buy them garlands and you can chat with them or offer them drinks.

The first Thai disco, reportedly set up here in 1999 in Golden Mile Complex, is named Thai Disco.

The 5,000 sq ft venue still features a live Thai band, DJs spinning Thai records, Thai waitresses and Thai beer.

The company behind it reportedly also owns another Thai disco as well as the Singha Beer distributorship in Singapore.

But the Thai disco scene has really taken off in recent years, with Club Neverland being part of the new wave.

The 12,000 sq ft Club Neverland, which opened in November 2009 at Orchard Plaza, became an established player with resident Thai bands and multi-talented singers that covered all genres, from Mandopop to K-pop to Western pop.

It even opened an 18,000 sq ft branch in Kuala Lumpur in 2011, which has a resident Thai band, DJs, 10 singers and six dancers, and has a maximum capacity of 1,500.

Singapore sales manager Jeremy Sim has been visiting Thai nightclubs twice a month for the last three years.

The 37-year-old tells TNPS: "There are live performances and pretty girls to look at. What's there not to like? "I also understand a bit of Thai and like to listen to Thai songs in general."

He has visited nightspots like Zouk's Velvet Underground, but prefers Thai discos like Planet Paradise in Liang Court.

He says: "There is more interaction between performers and audience members. If I buy a garland for a performer, I'm quite sure she will come by and say hi in between the sets."

Finance consultant Damian Lin, 28, frequents Thai discos like Galaxy in Orchard Plaza with his friends because he likes the music and finds the performers "very versatile".

He says: "They can sing in English, Hokkien, Cantonese, Mandarin and Thai. There's a lot of variety and it's hard to get bored."

Source: http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest%...18-402857.html

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