Steamroom with The Pillar and Stones in Orchard Central shuts after just three months

The interior of Steamroom with The Pillar and Stones. ST understands that the store has shuttered for good due to a licensing issue and will be re-opening elsewhere.
The interior of Steamroom with The Pillar and Stones. ST understands that the store has shuttered for good due to a licensing issue and will be re-opening elsewhere.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Multi-concept store Steamroom with The Pillar and Stones (SRPS) at Orchard Central shut down earlier this month, just three months after it opened to much fanfare in May.

The ambitious 5,000 sq ft retail concept had different sections. The steamroom refers to the kaffatea room which specialises in Chinese teas, The Pillar refers to an 80-odd-seater restaurant, while The Stones was a space for retail and activities like art-jamming and workshops. It also had various other interesting features, including a glass-encased paludarium.

SRPS is owned by The House of Weltanschauung, a company co-founded by local artist Wong Lip Chin, 30. The bachelor, who also designed the space, has been working on SRPS for the past two years.

When contacted, Mr Wong declined comment. However, the Straits Times understands that the store has shuttered for good due to a licensing issue and will be re-opening elsewhere. A new start date has not been set.

A typical lease term for a retail space in a Singapore mall is about three years.

Retail experts interviewed says that it is difficult to ascertain what sort of licensing issue could have posed the problem, but a check on business information portals LicenceOne and GuideMeSingapore.com showed that retailers and restaurateurs typically need two to three licences for activities such as importing food ingredients, selling food as well as selling speciality goods including cosmetics and liquor.

Dr Seshan Ramaswami, associate professor of marketing education from the Singapore Management University, says that the sudden closing of the unique retail concept is surprising.

"I can only speculate that some financial arrangement or problem might have arisen, leading to an immediate closure," he says. "Of course it doesn't help at all that the retail environment has been a little gloomy - you need a lot of financial reserve to be able to pull through these lows in the business cycle."

"Big chains and franchises are better able to smoothen these lows than single store or smaller chain types of retailers."

When The Straits Times visited the site on Monday (Aug 21), it found that the store's shutters were down and the seating area cordoned off.

Orchard Central, which is owned by Far East Organisation, confirms that it is looking for a new tenant.

Meanwhile, those who had visited the store were sad to see it go.

The restaurant, headed by local chef Trevor Paulo and directed by executive chef Stephan Zoisl, who also runs the restaurant Chef's Table By Chef Stephan in Tras Street, was particularly missed.

For Ms Cheryl Lee, 27, the food was the main draw.

She says that she was "rather shocked" that it had closed so quickly but was "not entirely surprised either", considering that it seemed quiet every time she went.

The employee at a marketing and advertising agency, adds: "Whether I would visit them again depends on the new location. If it is easily accessible then definitely. Otherwise, I wouldn't go out of my way to check it out."