'Until we meet again': Karaoke chain Manekineko closes all 8 S'pore outlets

All staff at the Manekineko outlets have been retrenched. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - A major karaoke chain in Singapore has decided to close all eight of its outlets here this month.

Manekineko, which is known for its vibrant and trendy rooms, made the announcement in a Facebook post on Wednesday (May 19). In it, the management team said: "Karaoke Manekineko would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude and thanks to all customers who gave support to us. It is not goodbye; it is until we meet again."

Its outlets are in Cineleisure, *Scape, Bugis+, Marina Square, Lucky Chinatown, Safra Punggol, Safra Jurong and Tampines 1.

Manekineko is one of Japan's largest karaoke chains, with more than 500 outlets there, according to the website of Koshidaka Singapore, which is in charge of the brand here. The firm also launched K Suites, another karaoke concept featuring spacious luxury suites in Orchard Rendezvous Hotel, and the Bistro 8 buffet restaurant and bar in Cineleisure.

Both K Suites and Bistro 8 have also been shut permanently.

Mr Akira Zama, 48, chief executive of Koshidaka Singapore, said all its Manekineko outlets have not been operating since the circuit breaker in April last year. "We have been given no prospects on the resumption of our karaoke business, which is why we have decided to close all Manekineko outlets in Singapore in order to focus our limited resources on other countries.

"Other countries have allowed family karaoke businesses to resume at times, based on their Covid-19 situations. But, unfortunately, we can't do anything in Singapore. Honestly speaking, we have been frustrated as to why we have not been allowed to resume our family karaoke business for these 14 months even though there were some periods when the public health situation was stabilised."

All staff at the Manekineko outlets have been retrenched, he added. "We really appreciate our customers who have been supporting us and giving us such kind comments even though we closed. It is not so soon, but we hope we can come back to Singapore when we have the opportunity."

Netizens mourned the demise of the karaoke stalwart. Facebook user Kenneth Ong wrote: "Of all the karaoke chains, this was my favourite. They always had the latest songs, real music videos, one of the best sound systems... I am going to miss them. Farewell and all the best. Until we meet again."

Other karaoke chains have tried to change their tune. Well-known chain Teo Heng is operating its outlets at Causeway Point, Bedok Point and JCube as work and study spaces, with rates from $4 per hour per room. But there is no sale of food and drinks, and each room can accommodate a maximum of only two people. Masks also have to be worn at all times.

Teo Heng used to have 14 outlets here, but shut down two permanently in July last year. The other nine are currently closed, with the AMK Hub and Our Tampines Hub branches also slated to shutter next month.

Teo Heng KTV director Jean Teo, 54, said occupancy for its work and study spaces is at about 20 per cent, adding: "We are trying to pivot amid the current conditions, to provide a space for people to work or study during this difficult period.

"Many guests are familiar with our premises and feel happy and safe here. While operating as a co-working space is not profitable, we hope it will help us to prolong the period that we can stay afloat."

Sing My Song Family Karaoke tried to turn its outlet at Paya Lebar Quarter into a co-working space and cafe last December. But it has been closed since May 16, as dining in is not allowed during the phase two (heightened alert) period, which runs till June 13.

Sing My Song Family Karaoke owner Frank Per, 48, said: "We thought of operating solely as a co-working space. But after doing the sums, we realised it is not practical to do so, since the money we bring in just cannot cover the rental and staff costs to keep the outlet open.

"We hope more support can be given to the entertainment and F&B sector, so we can survive until the Covid-19 crisis is over."

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