Different place, same Zouk

Zouk founder Lincoln Cheng will invest $10 million in the new venue, which he hopes to start operating by June next year. Zouk's core elements will be kept, such as the deep house grooves of Velvet Underground One of four party venues at Zouk is Phut
Zouk founder Lincoln Cheng will invest $10 million in the new venue, which he hopes to start operating by June next year. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE
Zouk founder Lincoln Cheng will invest $10 million in the new venue, which he hopes to start operating by June next year. Zouk's core elements will be kept, such as the deep house grooves of Velvet Underground One of four party venues at Zouk is Phut
One of four party venues at Zouk is Phuture, launched in 1996, where urban beats, R&B and hip-hop feature prominently.PHOTO: ZOUK MANAGEMENT
Zouk founder Lincoln Cheng will invest $10 million in the new venue, which he hopes to start operating by June next year. Zouk's core elements will be kept, such as the deep house grooves of Velvet Underground One of four party venues at Zouk is Phut
Zouk's core elements will be kept, such as the deep house grooves of Velvet Underground.PHOTO: ZOUK MANAGEMENT

Iconic nightclub will keep key elements when it moves to Clarke Quay next year

Zoukers and Zoukettes can fret a little less. Zouk's founder says the iconic nightclub will preserve its essence when it moves to its new home in Clarke Quay next year.

Mr Lincoln Cheng says he will be keeping the core elements of the nightclub when it moves from Jiak Kim Street to Clarke Quay next year. He hopes to start operating at the new location by June.

Speaking to Life just three days after announcing the club's move to the Cannery in Clarke Quay, Mr Cheng, 67, says he will try, as best as he can, to keep the things that Zouk regulars associate most with the club - even its little hot dog kiosk that has fed many weary Zoukettes in the wee hours.

The deep house grooves of the club's Velvet Underground and the hip-hop and R&B beats of Phuture will remain.

 

Although it is still early days and no concrete plans have been made, Mr Cheng says: "Nothing is ever going to be exactly the same, but as long as the key factors remain constant, we can carry on at Clarke Quay."

He says $10 million will be invested in the new venue.

Zouk announced on Sunday that it had secured a 30,000 sq ft location in Clarke Quay, just two days shy of the deadline issued by the Government for the club to find an alternative location.

If it failed to secure a new venue, it would have been forced to close by December, when its lease expires.

The award-winning nightspot, which was founded in 1991 and has since grown to be among the top 10 nightclubs in the world, was given the boot because it was deemed incompatible with the neighbouring vicinity.

The authorities said the club's presence led to noise and littering in an area likely to see more housing under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Master Plan.

Calling the decision a "foregone conclusion", Mr Cheng says: "I will miss Jiak Kim Street. It's very sad because next year, we would have been here for a quarter of a century. But we have to think about the next quarter of a century."

He says he had considered several locations, including a crystal pavilion at Marina Bay Sands, the Singapore Flyer at Raffles Avenue, the old Kallang Airport, and South Beach, a new residential and commercial complex in Beach Road.

He found none of them suitable. South Beach's space was too small; it was too expensive to build a club from scratch at the Flyer; and he found the acoustics at the crystal pavilion terrible for a nightclub.

He deemed the former Kallang Airport "too risky" as he is unsure of new developments in the vicinity and whether they would impact running a club there.

But a silver lining came when public-listed group LifeBrandz, an anchor tenant at Clarke Quay, surrendered 57,000 sq ft of space in March.

LifeBrandz was forced to close all its food and beverage outlets, including nightclubs Fenix Room and Aquanova, after a series of business failures and was unable to pay wages on time.

Taking over its outlets was an "immediate thought" when news of its exit broke, says Mr Cheng.

"Not many places have a size that can fit us... its space was quite suitable and it's part of the Clarke Quay complex, so we would probably have more foot traffic. And it's readily available," he says.

Zouk's general manager Benny Heng, 38, says the club initiated talks with Clarke Quay as early as January, but plans sped up after LifeBrandz's exit.

The lease was finally inked last Thursday, but Mr Cheng says details of his contract with landlord CapitaMalls Asia are confidential.

He says the club will continue to do what it does best - bring in top international DJs, feature up-andcoming talent on the cusp of DJ stardom, and introduce new electronic music to clubbers.

"We'll try to keep that same culture and ethos of what Zouk has created over the last 24 years," he says.

Some tenants are welcoming Zouk's arrival at Clarke Quay.

Mr Dennis Foo, 62, chairman of Citybar Holdings, which operates Shanghai Dolly, calls it a "triple win" and a "marriage in the waiting".

He says it means that Zouk "will find a place for the next generation of Zoukers and Zoukettes", and it will complement the rest of the nightlife offerings in Clarke Quay and vice versa.

With more choices for partygoers, "the precinct will become a top one-stop nightlife destination in the region, if not the world".

Mr Dominic Han, 33, head of marketing for The Pump Room microbrewery-cum-club, believes Zouk will "bring some life back to the area" as the club has a loyal following and "will definitely bring a crowd".

Mr Han, noting that business in Clarke Quay has slowed down in the past year with tightened liquor licensing hours and the revival of Chijmes in Victoria Street as a nightlife destination, says: "I see Zouk coming here as a good move. It will be something new in Clarke Quay to check out."

Mr Cheng believes Zouk's brand name will pull in a crowd when it opens in Clarke Quay.

"Everybody will be curious as to what we've done in Clarke Quay, so I expect an overwhelming crowd," he says.

"Moving there is like having a blank canvas that you can paint on and start afresh. The key elements will be the same but, at the same time, we can do a lot of new things we haven't thought of before, now that we're part of an entertainment complex."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2015, with the headline 'Different place, same Zouk'. Print Edition | Subscribe