Karaoke chain Teo Heng may soon close half of its 14 outlets; Manekineko also feeling the stress

Teo Heng staff moving furniture out of its karaoke outlet at Katong Shopping Centre. PHOTO: TEO HENG KTV

SINGAPORE - Well-known karaoke chain Teo Heng may soon close half of its 14 outlets here as a result of Covid-19.

It has already ended operations at its Katong Shopping Centre and Sembawang Shopping Centre branches.

Mr Jackson Teo, founder of Teo Heng KTV, which operates the chain, told Shin Min Daily News it has been "very bad" for his business since entertainment venues including bars and karaoke outlets were ordered to be closed since late March to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

While cinemas have since been allowed to reopen, this is not the case for karaoke venues.

The 62-year-old said: "Closing outlets is a very painful decision, but it is necessary."

He was especially sad to close the Katong outlet, which opened in 1989 and was the chain's first.

"I think this pandemic is a black-swan event out of our control. If the epidemic is over in six months, I think we can continue to operate and make a comeback. And if things don't improve by then, then I think we have to accept that this is fate."

The company, which hires more than 130 employees, has not cut the pay of its staff despite having no income in the last four months.

It was able to stay afloat, Mr Teo said, because of assistance such as rental relief or wage subsidies through the Jobs Support Scheme. But he noted that such assistance might end soon.

Mr Teo established Teo Heng in 1989, and it has become known for its budget- and family-friendly karaoke service. Its 14 outlets are in places including Causeway Point, Suntec City, Bedok Point, Junction 10 and The Star Vista.

One of the chain's regulars, security operations executive Valerie Yeo, said she was devastated when she heard the news. The 25-year-old has been visiting its outlets every other week since she was 14.

She said: "It's so sad that such a iconic Singapore business has to close so many outlets. I always like to sing at their outlets because it costs as little as $18 for three hours, on Mondays to Thursdays, and I can sing lots of songs by Singaporean singer JJ Lin with my friends."

Other karaoke chains are also feeling the stress from not being able to resume operations.

Manekineko, which has eight outlets in Singapore, says it is trying its best to keep all its staff through subsidies, and efforts to cut costs.

Chief executive officer of Koshidaka Singapore Akira Zama, who is in charge of the brand in Singapore, said: "At the moment, we don't have any plan to lay off our staff. Government support will mostly cover us until the end of this month. If no additional support is announced, and we are not allowed to resume business soon, we will face a much more severe situation.

"We have been receiving many inquiries from our patrons, and would like to resume as soon as possible to provide our service to these customers again."

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