Last Updated on 2023-01-16 , 5:03 pm
Apart from not needing to wear masks, I’m sure that there were other things that Singaporeans missed when we were going through the brunt of the pandemic.
Such as nightclubs.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple nightclubs ended up shutting down for various reasons.
For example, the nightclubs in Peace Centre, a mall along Sophia Road, had to close shop when the mall was sold en bloc in 2021.
On the other hand, Ming Arcade was sold in December last year, meaning that the pubs and clubs in the mall will have to end their business there.
Apart from that, other nightclubs in areas such as Golden Mile Complex have also closed down.
However, with the relaxation of COVID-19 management measures since April last year, it seems like new nightclubs have sprung up as well.
But in a place that you probably didn’t think of as a “nightclub area”.
The place in question? Sim Lim Square, where many of us probably only visit whenever we need to send our laptops for repair.
Here’s what you need to know about the rising nightclub scene at Sim Lim Square and what you can expect in the future.
If you’ve only 30 seconds to spare, you can watch this video instead:
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Pub Owners’ Reasons Behind Setting Up Shop at Sim Lim Square
When speaking to The Straits Times, pub owner Royston Toh explained that other malls, such as Orchard Towers and Golden Mile Complex, were among the options that he and his friends had considered when they were deciding where to open up their pub.
However, both malls were taken out of the running soon after he realised that neither of them were feasible options: Tenants of Golden Mile Complex will be required to vacate their stores by May this year as the mall was sold en bloc last year.
On the other hand, the police had told the owners of the 12 nightclubs and pubs located in Orchard Towers that their licenses would expire in May this year and that they would not be renewed.
Eventually, Mr Toh settled on Sim Lim Square after chancing upon online notices indicating that there were multiple units available for rent in Sim Lim Square.
In particular, Mr Toh, 38, explained how he eventually chose the mall due to its multiple pros, including its central location and rumours that Sim Lim Square would soon have a more prominent nightlife culture.
After deciding on the location, Mr Toh rented two units and was able to open up DPS KTV pub for business in November last year.
The pub, which offers karaoke systems and pool tables, is located on the third floor of Sim Lim Square.
Apart from Mr Toh’s experience of setting up shop at Sim Lim Square, another pub owner named Mr Cheah revealed why the owners chose to set up their club in the mall.
Mr Cheah, a co-owner of Club Deluxe, a club that opened its doors two months ago, shared that the owners decided on Sim Lim Square as their store’s location after an agent brought up Sim Lim Square as a recommendation.
In addition, he added that the impending closure of other nightlife places, such as Golden Mile Complex and Peace Centre, also contributed to the owners’ decision.
History of Nightclubs in Sim Lim Square
According to the retailers of Sim Lim Square, the mall only housed one or two pubs in 2019.
However, police records from 2020 reveal that there were 51 public entertainment licences linked to Sim Lim Square in that year.
For the unaware, any nightlife establishments which offer live or recorded music within their premises require a public entertainment licence.
These establishments include bars, cafes, pubs, restaurants and computer gaming centres.
Based on the store’s licence type, these licences allow nightlife stores to operate until 6 am.
Thereafter, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the number of public entertainment licences in the mall to fall drastically to 11.
However, it seems like the public entertainment scene at Sim Lim Square has since made a comeback, and the mall now boasts 52 public entertainment licences as of 2022.
According to The Straits Times, there are currently 11 pubs, nightclubs and karaoke lounges in the mall. Police officers were seen patrolling the area near these establishments as well.
Four of these stores are located on the sixth floor of the mall, while the other seven are located between the first and four floors.
Apart from that, long-time retailers also told The Straits Times that units on the sixth floor were “difficult to rent out” in the past and that they were primarily used for storage or office spaces in the past.
The Future of Sim Lim Square
And it seems like Sim Lim Square might be welcoming even more change in the upcoming year or so.
In 2022, it was revealed that the management of Sim Lim Square has plans to take inspiration from a business model in China and turn the mall into a 24-hour mall.
Just like this.
And if the blue cat was too annoyi—I mean, cute, for you to pay attention throughout the video, the model involves using the mall for different purposes at different times of the day.
For example, it could be used for shopping and eating during the day and for nightlife establishments at night.
The model will be implemented as early as this year, and most shops that will adopt this model first will be those located on the fifth and sixth floors.
The management added that the stores on the third and fourth floors might also follow the same model if it is successful.
Pub Owners’ Opinions
And here’s what the club and pub owners have to say about the future of their businesses.
Mr Cheah expressed his approval for Sim Lim Square’s future 24-hour model and said that it could allow Sim Lim Square to be seen as an attractive and “fun place” for patrons to visit at night.
On the other hand, Mr Tom Goh, the operator of Club JD at Sim Lim Square, mentioned how he hopes to see more nightlife establishments in the mall as the operators are trying to establish a community that allows the different pub operators to be helpful towards each other.
He shared that another pub once borrowed him alcohol when his pub ran out of it due to supplier issues. The various pubs come together and hold pool table matches for customers as well.
Other Retailers’ Opinions of Pubs in Sim Lim Square
Now that we’ve heard from the pub owners, here’s what other retailers think.
Ms Lynn Deng, a store operator at Sim Lim Square, mentioned to The Straits Times that she has seen men enter KTV lounges from around 6 pm onwards.
Ms Deng, who has worked at the mall for eight years, clarified that she has yet to see any drunken behaviour since most workers would have ended their work by the time these customers entered the mall.
However, she expressed concern about how issues such as the place becoming dirty or fights breaking out could negatively impact the mall’s image.
Regarding those points, Mr Goh explained that the operators do their best to maintain the cleanliness of the area as customers would not want to visit an unkempt place.
In addition, Mr Goh, 43, emphasised that patrons who act aggressively will be made to leave the premises.
On the other hand, another retailer named Mr Raymond Ong had a different view.
Mr Ong, the owner of a computer repair shop located on the fourth floor, pointed out that the retailers’ businesses do not overlap with the opening hours of the nightlife establishments, meaning that they are “not affected” by what happens in the mall at night.
Other Personnel’s Opinion
Mr Lim Sze Teck, the senior director of research at Huttons Asia, brought up the fact that choices for appropriate locations to house nightlife establishment operations are currently limited since these establishments need to have a minimum size.
In addition, he said that the demand for nightlife establishments has also increased since the relaxation of COVID-19 measures, meaning that most operators are currently on the lookout for suitable locations.
Nasen Thiagarajan, the President of the Singapore Nightlife Business Association (SNBA), agreed that operators are looking for places to house their businesses.
In particular, he said that this is primarily due to the upcoming closures and restrictions at malls such as Orchard Towers and Ming Arcade.
However, Mr Thiagarajan also highlighted the need for operators of these establishments at Sim Lim Square to uphold the mall’s reputation by ensuring that their businesses are “safe and controlled”.
This is mainly due to the strata-titled system that Sim Lim Square follows, which means that the units are under individual owners and not a singular landlord.
This means that a mall-wide campaign or notices cannot be sent to those who do not meet the appropriate standards. Hence, one errant operator will affect the reputation of the whole place.
As for the clubgoers, one clubgoer named Dennis told The Straits Times that Sim Lim Square offers a wide variety of nightlife entertainment options, making it similar to his past experiences in other areas.
Apart from that, the central location of the mall and the fact that he does not have to travel to multiple venues can also provide him and his friends with convenience, given that they are interested in different nightlife activities.
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Featured Image: The Straits Times
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