Nightclubs come, nightclubs go. But here are four that have survived the years.
YOU can't miss Sin Peng Midnite Lounge in Serangoon Road. A neon sign outside the shophouse screams its presence. You do a double-take. The place look sauthentically old. Can it be for real? Surely, it must be one of those new, old-style places that are springing up everywhere.
Inside, all is dimly lit, but you can tell that the ceiling is peeling. Fans (ancient ones) whir above your head, but there's still a musty smell.
The only illumination comes from the karaoke machine and TV set at one side of the hall, the altar above the cashier's setup and little red lanterns dangling from the ceiling.
Sin Peng Midnite Lounge is real, all right. It is still hanging in there, one of probably only two Chinese-style nightclubs to have survived since the 1960s.
Incidentally, we couldn't locate any nightspot going back to the 1950s, which reflects how the volatile nature of the industry has seen clubs come and go. But the lights (dim ones notwithstanding) still burn in Sin Peng and as mattering of survivors from the 1970s and 1980s.
Owner Tay Choon Beng, 62, says his outlet and another in Geylang Lorong 23 whose name he can't remember are the only remaining oldies from the 1960s: There used to be more than 200 such nightclubs in the past, but the numbers have dwindled and many have closed.
Such Chinese-style nightclubs were common in the 1950s, especially in Geylang and Jalan Besar.
They gave way in the 1960s to trendier lounges, bars and discos in hotels, like Golden Venus in Orchard Hotel, Pink Pussycat in Hotel Garni and Ming Court Hotel's Barbarella.
The nightlife trade practically came to a standstill in the late 1960s and early 1970s because of a police clampdown on drug abuse and violence in the discos. Many had their licences revoked.
It was not until the 1980s and 1990s that discos started heating up the nightscene again, with clubs like The Warehouse in River View Hotel, The Reading Room in Marina Mandarin and Top Ten in Orchard Towers. But these did not last long either, and more clubs have since opened and closed.
Raise a toast then, to longevity, to these four old-timers.
The Carriage Bar
THIS bar holds a special place with nightlife-lovers in more ways than one. Opened in 1987, it still sees a steady stream of cha-cha-loving regulars from those days. And its owners are members and friends of resident bandT hunderbirds, who rescued their beloved bar from closure.
The bar is set within York Hotel, part of the Goodwood Group, which ran it until two years ago when Thunderbirds bought it for $200,000.
The four-piece band has been playing there since it started and felt it would be a pity to let it close. So, they rounded up some friends to run the place themselves. The band members, in their early 50s to 60s, are full-time musicians.
A group of 13 shareholders are now involved, not so much for money, but for sentimental reasons.
Sin Peng Midnite Lounge
WHEN it comes to what men like in club hostesses, take it from Mr Tay Choon Beng, the owner of Sin Peng Midnight Lounge.
'Men prefer women from China because they are prettier and more fun. Malaysian girls are not as daring,' he declares.
Sin Peng has been around since the 1960s. Today, its musty shophouse premises can accommodate 100 customers, and they have a choice of 29 booths.
But when LifeStyle visited at 11.30pm on a recent Friday, six customers have the place to themselves.
And then, of course, there are the hostesses. About 10 of them, mostly Malaysians, are on hand.
The girls flit about serving drinks, but as it is a slow night, several huddle by themselves in one of the booths. They get a commission from the drinks they sell, and from tips.
Mr Tay, 62, says business has been bad as clubs like his are no longer popular.
The influx of mainland Chinese women who work in seedier lounges in Geylang has also affected his business.
His monthly turnover is about $50,000 to $60,000, he says, compared to $100,000 when he took over the business in 1987 after the former owner died.
Sin Peng used to have a live band but that stopped when Mr Tay came on board and converted it into a KTV nightclub, using a karaoke sound system to pump out the music.
In the 1970s, he operated up to 18 nightclubs and bars, all of which have since closed except Sin Peng.
His mini-empire may have had its last orders, but he says he will run Sin Peng till the day he, or the business, dies. 'As long as I can, I will run it,' he declares defiantly.
IT'S a touch of kitschy ye olde Englande in an urban setting. And regulars wouldn't have it any other way.
That's The Yard, an English-style pub that's been around since 1983. The original owners, who want to be known only as Mr and Mrs Poon, still run it today. Apart from new upholstery and paintwork, the place remains largely unchanged.
The retro-Brit theme is seen in its heavy wooden doors, stained glass windows, arches and wooden panelling. Mirrors and posters touting Old Dart beers line the walls.
Mrs Poon, 50, says that business at the 100-capacity pub has been affected since nearby Mohamed Sultan Road stopped being a favourite night haunt, but declined to give figures.
Weekday regulars are thirsty expatriates and locals in their 30s and above, who relish popping in for a pint after work. The weekends draw a younger crowd who watch soccer on the pub's 42-inch plasma TV screen.
The place has a dart-board, a pool table, plays piped-in music from the radio and offers finger food; which all makes for a cosy, relaxed atmosphere in which to say 'Cheers'.
Self-employed Briton David Smith, 49, a Singapore permanent resident, visits it three times a week.
'I like the place because of its friendliness and the people I meet,' he says. 'There is a good mix, not too many English people, and it's often the same faces with the occasional new face, so there is a strong fan base. Plus the drinks are cheap.'
PEYTON Place has been an Orchard Towers institution since 1975.
Named after the cheesy 1960s American soap opera starring Ryan O'Neal, it still sits in its original location at the basement, long after many other nightclubs in the infamous building 'known for its ladies of the night' have come and gone.
The decor hasn't changed much either; just minimal, but nothing to do with trendy minimalism. Think cheap black carpets, old bar stools and posters lining the glass panels.
While the old Peyton Place used to be a restaurant, cafe and pub, it is fully a pub now. That's because it is no longer owned by the man who set it up, Mr Wong Ban Hiow. He sold it to Mr Michael Chua, 43, in 2001.
Mr Chua, a former seaman, runs a tight ship with his business partner Marilyn Tan, 50. Since taking over, he has removed the restaurant fixtures to make room for a small stage where a seven-piece Filipino band belts out Top 40 hits and pop songs.
A bevy of Filipino women line the passage at the entrance, providing the eye-candy to attract customers.
Mr Chua, who also owns a pub and a 35-room hotel in the Philippines, says that most patrons are regulars or Filipinos. In the 1980s, it was sailors and foreigners.
'The band, the people, the decor, everything here is very Filipino. Some of my customers, when they walk in, they feel like they have walked into a pub in the Philippines,' he says.
|Privacy Statement Conditions of Access Advertise|