KTV hostesses worry as Havelock's glitzy clubs leases run out
Known as the playground where towkays go to spend money, where the hostesses are the prettiest and where it costs more than a pretty penny to have them sing along, the nightclubs on Havelock Road are also a secretive world where no cameras are allowed. With their leases ending, MAUREEN KOH (email@example.com) is sent in to get a glimpse
Big neon signs, grand chandeliers, ornate furniture and an elaborate fountain make up the scene at the entrance of the posh KTV lounge.
Uniformed staff members that include bouncers man the reception, where you wait before being ushered into one of the rooms that is lined with sprawling leather sofas, small pouffe seats, glass-top tables and large flat-screen TVs.
As you meander through the passageways, what greets you are rows of heavily made-up, young, nubile girls. Most carry a small wristlet or clutch bag, and their mobile phones.
Many smile coquettishly and try to attract the men, hoping they will be called into the private rooms where customers begin to have fun singing and the money starts to roll.
For a few hours each night, the men come to spend thousands of dollars, attended to by attractive mamasans and their bevy of sweet young things.
Each nightclub typically has at least 100 hostesses, many of whom are from various parts of China.
Go past the rooms - there are about 30 to 40 in a single nightclub - and you come to a large hall where "live" performances and fashion shows take place throughout the night.
New girls sometimes go through an initiation ceremony where they line themselves on the stage, dance and try to attract generous customers who pay for garlands - in denominations of $100 onwards. That, of course, means they will have to entertain those who have been open with their wallets later.
Shelves of hard liquor, which costs $400 a bottle, line the walls.
There are at least 10 such high-end lounges in Singapore, but among the more well-known are Las Vegas De'Palace and Tiananmen KTV & Lounge on Havelock Road, and Deluxe Lido Palace on Outram Road.
But Las Vegas De'Palace closed its doors on June 27 after nearly 10 years, after its lease expired. Tiananmen and two other clubs, Club Infinitude and Golden Million, which are located in the same building, are likely to move too, reported Shin Min Daily News on Tuesday.
A spokesman for Furama tells The New Paper on Sunday: "The owning company of Furama RiverFront Hotel intends to change the concept of its annex block next year, so as to better complement the hotel offerings to our local and international guests.
"With planned conversion of the current space to retail, showroom, office and commercial usage, there have been keen interest and commitments from various potential tenants.
"However, the owning company has yet to finalise the eventual tenants, given its objective to optimise the tenant mix for its hotel guests.
"Our tenants have been faithful partners over the last decade. Given the desires of these tenants to stay at the current premise, mutual arrangements have been made with some of these tenants to extend their tenancy.
"However, due to a confidentiality clause with our tenants, we are not able to provide further details until further notice."
The nightclubs' regular clients, who are mostly Mandarin-speaking businessmen and towkays in their 30s to late 50s, greet the news with some unhappiness.
Mr Leon Tay, 52, is miffed even though there are other options.
"It's a matter of familiarity. I know almost everyone, from the parking valet to the bouncers, the mamasans and their hostesses, and even the service staff," says the businessman who goes to Tiananmen at least once a week.
He splurges between $3,000 and $5,000 each visit - depending on whether it is personal or official.
Miss Wei-wei, 28, a mamasan at Tiananmen, says she has received many calls since the news report.
"Many of my regular customers are calling to find out if we are moving out soon, and if we have found another spot," she says.
The New Paper on Sunday understands that the various club management are looking for alternative premises, but nothing has been confirmed so far.
One club's senior manager, who declines to be named, says: "My boss told us that one of the problems is getting a good location with a decent rent.
"He said those places that can take a nightclub are already taken up."
Mr Ted Chan, 40, a regional business director who entertains clients at Las Vegas De'Palace and Tiananmen, describes the possible closure as "a real pity".
He likes that the KTV lounges are not all that seedy, contrary to popular impression.
Mr Chan, who usually spends about $5,000 on liquor and the girls, says: "The hanky-panky really does not happen inside the rooms. The deal is cut inside but takes place outside, where you 'mai zhong' (go out for supper or other arrangements)."
Then again, says Miss Wei-wei: "Not all the girls will be willing to do that, especially those who are from Malaysia or Singapore.
"Some of them really have their pride - they don't mind drinking till their guts spill or singing till their voices are hoarse, but they will not provide extra services."
Miss Tian-xin, 20, is one such example. The Malaysian, who has been working at Club Infinitude for eight months, says: "I can hold my liquor very well and that is enough for me to earn the commission from opening the bottles. I don't need to debase myself.
"I have a boyfriend and I hope I can 'shang an' (retire) in another two years."
– Additional reporting by Benita Aw Yeong
"...One of the problems is getting a good location with a decent rent... Those places that can take a nightclub are already taken up."
- One club's senior manager, who declines to be named
"The hanky-panky really does not happen inside the rooms. The real deal is cut inside and takes place outside..."
- Mr Ted Chan, 40, a regional business director