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Champagne sparklers banned in clubs

This story was first published in The Straits Times on April 24, 2013

The thrill of being served premium champagne lit by sparklers is no longer a luxury that nightclubs in Singapore can offer to patrons.

Life! understands that over the past two weeks, the Singapore Civil Defence Force has been sending out advisories to nightspots offering this bottle service, instructing them to refrain from igniting sparklers within their premises as they are deemed a fire safety hazard.

Attaching lit sparklers to bottles of champagne became popular here about two years ago and it became a trendy thing to do at clubs such as the now- defunct members-only nightclub Filter, ultralounge Pangaea, Zouk, Dream, Mink and club lounge Royal Room.

The attention-grabbing practice was especially popular among big-spenders opening magnum bottles of Dom Perig- non or Cristal champagne, which can cost upwards of $1,000.

The Straits TimesWhen contacted, an SCDF spokesman explained the ignition of fireworks and pyrotechnics is prohibited as it increases the likelihood of fires and constitutes a fire hazard.

Life! obtained a copy of the advisory and found that it also says that nightspots should stop the practice with immediate effect.

Nightclub operators affected by the new rules, including those managing Zouk, Pangaea, Mink and Royal Room, said they have since stopped igniting sparklers within their premises.

It is not clear which nightclub here was the first to introduce the practice, but it gained popularity three years ago when now-defunct Filter at Gallery Hotel offered the service to its patrons.

The service is offered at nightclubs in cities including New York, London, Ibiza and Shanghai.

Mr Phillip Poon, 35, one of the directors for Massive Collective, which manages nightspots Dream at Clarke Quay, and Mink and Royal Room at Pan Pacific Singapore hotel, says: "It's a key aspect of our club but I think if it affects all clubs across the board, we don't have much choice but to look for alternative methods to showcase the drinks."

At his clubs, sparklers are attached to champagne bottles 1.5-litres or more if patrons spend a minimum of $1,000.

Sparklers are a ubiquitous presence at these nightspots, with patrons often ordering three or more magnum champagne bottles at a time.

On the opening night of nightclub Dream last month, one patron ordered more than a dozen Dom Perignon champagne bottles with sparklers, with servers parading the bottles in a row and posing for photos.

Mr Poon says he learnt of the Singapore Civil Defence Force rules only over the past weekend and is currently reviewing his operation policies.

He added that his clubs have other ways of enhancing bottle service, such as using ice buckets with flashing LED lights or serving 3-litre bottles of champagne in a neon-lit gold cage. These do not come at an additional cost.

Mr Gordon Foo, coordinating director for operations for St James Holdings which manages nightclub multiplex St James Power Station and Mandopop club Shanghai Dolly at Clarke Quay, says: "We have the sparklers only at Shanghai Dolly so the impact is not that bad. The sparklers appeal to a different segment of clubgoers and for the majority of our customers, the impact is minimal."

He says most clients prefer brown spirits over champagne. "The ban on its use was just a matter of time due to safety concerns, especially when you hear of club fires such as the one at Santika Club in Thailand which was started by a sparkler, or the recent one at Kiss club in Brazil, which was started by a flare ignited during a band performance," he added.

At least 66 people died in the Thai club fire in 2009 while 241 people died in the Brazil fire in January this year.

Reactions to the banning of sparklers have been mixed among clubgoers.

Bank manager Jeff Pua, 31, says: "It is a terrible shame to see such a basic novelty, offered by top clubs around the world, being banned for safety reasons. The introduction of sparklers to the party scene in Singapore has created much- needed energy and atmosphere."

But finance professional Arun R., 27, who frequents clubs such as Royal Room and Mink, welcomes the change. He says: "Fire and drunk people never make a good combination anyway."

melk@sph.com.sg

This story was first published in The Straits Times on April 24, 2013

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