For members only

Owners Raj Datwani (far left) and Alex Chew are spending a seven-figure sum to give the space where Bacchanalia used to occupy an overhaul.
Owners Raj Datwani (far left) and Alex Chew are spending a seven-figure sum to give the space where Bacchanalia used to occupy an overhaul.PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

Owners of Bacchanalia woo head honchos with swanky business club concept that boasts privacy and exclusive events

The owners of Bacchanalia restaurant are opening a members-only business club next month .

Called Madison Rooms, it will take over the space in the historic Masonic Hall in Coleman Street, which the 2 1/2-year-old restaurant occupied until July. Bacchanalia has relocated to HongKong Street.

Its old premises, with the blood-red armchairs and dark wooden decor, will be overhauled.

In its place will be a contemporary-looking business club. Members can work there, hold meetings, entertain clients, chill out and network with like-minded people in the 5,500 sq ft space.

Co-owner Raj Datwani, 33, hopes to attract head honchos and managing directors of companies from a diverse range of industries, from finance to law to the arts, and entrepreneurs.

The idea for starting a business club came after he noticed that up to half of Bacchanalia's customers were using the restaurant-cum-bar as a meeting and entertaining spot.

He says: "Customers booked private dining rooms for formal meetings in the late afternoon, which transited to conversations at the bar and then dinner. Hence, we saw a need for a proper space with personalised service they can call their own."

Madison Rooms plans to cap its by-invitation-only membership to 450, which co-owner Alex Chew, 30, says is the number of people that can comfortably fit in the space. He adds that members will be carefully selected to ensure a variety of business backgrounds, and there will be a good mix of men and women.

He says: "We want to have a nice and balanced group of people here as opposed to that of a bar in the Central Business District on a Friday night."

Reflecting this balance is the name Madison Rooms, which the owners feel is a gender-neutral name, and "has a nice ring to it".

A one-year membership starts at $8,000.

The owners are spending a seven-figure sum to give the space an overhaul, and are working with design company Distillery.

Mr Chew says that the interiors will resemble a "nicely refurbished colonial house" in neutral colours of white and grey, and there will be art on the walls.

More than 10 rooms will be carved out of the space. There will be two 10-seater meeting rooms with provisions for conference calls and video projection, and they can double as dining rooms.

Other facilities include a bar, cigar room, library, powder room and pantry which serves all-day snacks and has a wine cellar.

There will also be clusters of "work areas" where members can work on armchairs and tables fitted with charging stations.

The club can seat 80 people indoors, and the alfresco area, where Bacchanalia's herb garden used to be, will seat 30.

Diners can tuck into "Asian and Western comfort staples" such as steak frites, Caesar and kale salads, and local dishes, crafted by Bacchanalia head chef Ivan Brehm.

The owners have also sought tie-ups with luxury brands to offer activities for members.

One of them is The Macallan, which will offer tasting events and distillery trips.

Mr Datwani says: "Instead of offering run-of-the-mill discounts, we target the key interests of members and create exclusive experiences for them."

The owners are also finalising partnerships with six clubs in cities such as Hong Kong, Dubai and London, so that members can also use these overseas facilities.

One way that Madison Rooms hopes to stand out from the competition is with the use of technology to provide seamless service.

The owners have worked with four technology companies to come up with software that uses fingerprints to gain club entry, activate credit card payment, and remember customers' orders and dining preferences.

Mr Chew says: "We hope to create a comfort level that feels like being in your living room in the city."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 09, 2015, with the headline 'For members only'. Print Edition | Subscribe