Zouk bids farewell to Jiak Kim Street

After 25 years at its Jiak Kim Street location by the Singapore River, Singapore nightlife institution Zouk opened its doors there for the last time on Saturday (Dec 3).
Zouk’s security team joining partygoers on the floor as the lights came on yesterday morning.
Zouk’s security team joining partygoers on the floor as the lights came on yesterday morning.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
The DJ line-up: (from left) Zushan, Matthew, Andrew Tang, Ghetto, Hong, djB, Jeremy Boon, Lincey (back row) and LeNerd (seated on the floor).
The DJ line-up: (from left) Zushan, Matthew, Andrew Tang, Ghetto, Hong, djB, Jeremy Boon, Lincey (back row) and LeNerd (seated on the floor).ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Policemen doing their rounds yesterday morning did not let the chance of taking a keepsake photo slip by.
Policemen doing their rounds yesterday morning did not let the chance of taking a keepsake photo slip by.ST PHOTO: ANJALI RAGURAMAN
(Above) Revellers queueing from as early as 7pm last Saturday.
(Above) Revellers queueing from as early as 7pm last Saturday.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
There is no better place to show off your moves than on the podium in Zouk’s main room.
There is no better place to show off your moves than on the podium in Zouk’s main room.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Goodbye notes scribbled on the club’s facade with silver markers provided by Zouk’s staff.
Goodbye notes scribbled on the club’s facade with silver markers provided by Zouk’s staff.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
The club’s staff joining in the celebrations as the house lights came on at 7.30am yesterday.
The club’s staff joining in the celebrations as the house lights came on at 7.30am yesterday.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Zouk staff getting together in the main room before the doors opened to the public.
Zouk staff getting together in the main room before the doors opened to the public.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Crowds throng final party at the local nightlife institution before its move to Clarke Quay

After a quarter-century of Zouk playing cutting-edge and popular electronic and dance music, it was a 1970s pop classic that was among the tunes that marked the closing of an era for the local nightlife institution in Jiak Kim Street yesterday morning.

When The Beatles' Let It Be played, it brought on tears among the almost 300-strong crowd still in the club's main room at 7.40am as the house lights came on.

The tears might have been cathartic as well - the club's last night of operations on Saturday last week had started with a long queue that formed at least four hours before doors were officially opened at 11pm.

The selection of Let It Be was a poignant tribute to a trailblazer of the nightlife scene in Singapore. While the club's founder, Mr Lincoln Cheng, was absent, the song alluded to his favourite closing song, Imagine by John Lennon, which Zouk traditionally played at midnight across all three of its rooms on occasions such as New Year's Eve.

But towards the absolute end at Jiak Kim Street, before Zouk's move to Clarke Quay on Dec 17, partygoers and the club's staff seemed unwilling to let it be.

They came together to say goodbye with one last dance, repeatedly imploring resident DJs Hong and Lincey to play "one more song" as each song ended.

The significance of the night - and day - was apparently lost on no one, not even the policemen, who were there for their regular procedural checks. The men in blue took the chance to take a keepsake photo outside the club as the last clubbers left at about 8.30am.

Zouk's One World, One Music, One Tribe, One Dance philosophy - its slogan that hangs in the main room - leaves no one behind.

The finale parties on last Friday and Saturday saw the full stable of the club's past and present DJs taking the decks for a 4,000-strong crowd that included even a runner from the Standard Chartered marathon in full athletic gear.

At 6am, Mr Chan Eu Jin, 36, turned up. He had run 7km to Zouk from Gardens by the Bay because he wanted to be a part of the momentous occasion.

The first of six runners in the Ekiden run - a relay event in which a team of six runners complete the marathon - he says he passed his sash to his running buddy and jogged to the club on the way home.

The geotechnical engineer described the club as his "alma mater" and was visibly emotional as he said: "Zouk may be moving on, but my heart will always be at Jiak Kim."

Singaporean electronic dance music producer Manfred Lim, or Myrne, did not run, but he too completed a personal milestone of sorts at Zouk.

Zouk was the first club he went to a week after his 18th birthday. It also gave the 21-year-old his first break to play a show in a local club in February this year. So, Lim, who made headlines for being signed to big-name American producer Diplo's label last year, says it was important for him to be there.

It was also a fitting bookend to his father having been at Zouk on day one of its operations.

"My dad texted me to tell me that he was here on opening day in 1991, and now, his son is here on closing day in 2016," Lim said.

Other partygoers made their marks on the club's facade, with silver markers provided by the staff.

The drawings and writings will probably not last long, though. The club's structure, originally comprising three derelict warehouses built along the Singapore River in 1919, will have to be stripped down to its original state before being returned to the authorities.

Zouk's lease at Jiak Kim Street was extended several times since it first ended in 2012, but the club had to find a new location when it was not renewed last year.

The club was sold to conglomerate Genting Hong Kong for an undisclosed sum last year.

Long-time resident DJ Jeremy Boon, who has been with the club since the beginning, says whatever takes over the space eventually - be it retail or housing - will have big shoes to fill.

"Whatever the next place is to come and take over the property, I think it's too much pressure to fill the shoes of Zouk," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2016, with the headline 'Zouk bids farewell to Jiak Kim Street'. Print Edition | Subscribe