Zouk moving to Clarke Quay: A look at the ups and downs of the iconic nightclub

People dancing and partying at Zouk.
People dancing and partying at Zouk. PHOTO: ZOUK MANAGEMENT

SINGAPORE - Iconic homegrown nightclub Zouk has finally secured a new home - Clarke Quay.

The 24-year-old nightspot will bid farewell to its Jiak Kim Street home in May 2016. The authorities have said that the club has to move as it is incompatible with the Robertson Quay area, which is likely to see more housing under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's Master Plan.

 

Zouk hopes to start operations at Clarke Quay by June 2016 at the earliest, or September at the latest. It will take over a 30,000 sq ft space that was formerly occupied by public-listed company LifeBrandz, after the beleagured group was forced to close all its food and beverage establishments.

Here's a look at Zouk's ups and downs over the years.

From warehouses to party house


Zouk was once a riverside complex located on the opposite bank of the Robertson Quay Conservancy Area. PHOTO: ST FILE

Zouk brought partying to a whole new level after it opened in 1991, attracting a young, hip, and rich crowd, along with their flashy cars that would be valet parked outside the club. Only it was not called a club. Back then, it was called a discotheque.

It opened in 1991 at the cost of $8 million on Jiak Kim Street, and was made up of three warehouses that were then described as dilapidated.

Zouk was backed by upmarket furniture group BusinessWorld, whose managing director Lincoln Cheng came up with the idea of what they called an "entertainment complex" comprising a discotheque (one of the largest in the region), a Western restaurant, a cafe, a wine bar and a pub.

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Annual beach party Zouk Out started in 2000


Revellers partying away at the inaugural Zouk Out.  PHOTO: ST FILE 

The party, which is held every year at Siloso Beach in Sentosa, still attracts large crowds. It was conceived to be "the region's definitive dance music festival and bring Zouk's spirit and energy to the great outdoors and an even larger audience," according to the event's website.

It has lived up to expectations for 14 years, and has won the Singapore Tourism Board's "Best Leisure Event Experience" award twice.

The mega party has been graced by internationally famous music stars such as Tiesto, David Guetta and Hardwell.

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Major overhaul in 2005


The redecorated tunnel to Zouk's main room following the club's $7 million facelift in 2005.  PHOTO: ST FILE

Zouk went through a major revamp in 2005 which cost $7 million, almost as much money as it took when it opened in 1991 at the cost of $8 million. The makeover meant that the interior of Zouk was less angular and more spacious.

It also boasted a $1 million custom-made sound system, and artwork from artists such as Japan's Takashi Murakami, and new bar tops. The tunnel to Zouk's main room was also redecorated with handcrafted resin and then covered with a plastic coating which changes colours. Before that, Zouk had an overhaul in 2000, when the club was sound-proofed at the cost of $4 million.

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Drug scandal in 1995


A security officer checking the bag of a patron before allowing him entry into Zouk.  PHOTO: ST FILE 

Just four years after it opened, 32 people including Zouk's senior managers, staff and patrons were arrested in a major drug sweep by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB).

Among those arrested was the brainchild behind Zouk and its then director Lincoln Cheng. He was eventually sentenced to six months' jail and fined a total of $15,800 on two drug charges and two of having obscene magazines and video tapes.

Ecstasy pills and cocaine, both of which had never surfaced in Singapore before that, were sold and consumed by the staff and patrons. Private parties, described by the CNB as "wild", were also held there occasionally after it closed at 3am. The CNB said drugs were distributed freely.

Zouk closed for eight months after having its entertainment licence restricted to 10pm after the drug bust.

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Zouk goes across the Causeway


Clubbers outside Zouk KL.  PHOTO: ST FILE

Zouk went regional in 2004, after expanding into Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. It cost RM16 million (S$7.2 million) and was unveiled in a $45,000 launch party in February 2004. The KL club opened with four different sections: A main club to host foreign and resident DJs spinning a diversity of dance sounds, a Velvet Underground, an intimate area for a more sophisticated crowd, a terrace bar, and a cosy bar.

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jalmsab@sph.com.sg