Shanghai Dolly to close; curtailed hours blamed

Mandopop music venue Shanghai Dolly has hosted local and foreign entertainers, including well-known artists such as Taiwanese singer Rainie Yang and home-grown singer Tanya Chua.
Mandopop music venue Shanghai Dolly has hosted local and foreign entertainers, including well-known artists such as Taiwanese singer Rainie Yang and home-grown singer Tanya Chua.LIANHE WANBAO FILE PHOTO

British comedian Bill Bailey will perform as scheduled on Saturday in decade-old cabaret-style club's final night

After a decade as Singapore's longest-running and largest live Mandopop music venue, nightclub Shanghai Dolly will shut its doors at Clarke Quay by the end of the week, its managing director Gordon Foo told The Straits Times.

British comedian Bill Bailey will perform as scheduled on Saturday, the club's final night.

The cabaret-style club has hosted local and foreign entertainers, including well-known artists such as Taiwanese singer Rainie Yang and home-grown singer Tanya Chua.

Built as a one-stop entertainment destination for Chinese entertainment by nightlife king Dennis Foo, it houses three bars, a live music hall and a restaurant. He handed over operations of the club to his son Gordon in 2014.

The younger Mr Foo said business was affected by the shortening of liquor licensing hours in Clarke Quay to curb drunken behaviour, with sales dropping by about 30 per cent since the rules were implemented in 2013.

While tenants with a liquor licence were previously allowed to sell liquor to patrons until 6am, this was shortened to 3am on Sundays and weekdays, and 4am on Saturdays and the eve of public holidays.

"Clubs operate differently from pubs - the party starts much later. Before, much of our sales came after 1am. Now business peaks at 1.30am and customers have less than an hour to enjoy themselves because by 2.30, we have to start clearing the drinks," said Mr Foo, 36. "We understand where the policy is coming from but from a business standpoint, it is not doable anymore."

SHORTER DRINKING HOURS

Business peaks at 1.30am and customers have less than an hour to enjoy themselves because by 2.30, we have to start clearing the drinks... From a business standpoint, it is not doable... ''

MR GORDON FOO, Shanghai Dolly's MD.

Mr Foo said the club had put in place measures to prevent incidents arising out of drunkenness, and it has never received a demerit point, but it was not able to operate profitably under the new rules.

After years of rising costs and sustained losses, the club will be closing several months ahead of the end of its lease. It owes millions in loans to its holding company, CityBar Holdings, which operates Shanghai Dolly as well as St James Power Station.

The older Mr Foo is chairman of CityBar Holdings, while Gordon is the managing director.

St James is unaffected by Shanghai Dolly's closure, he said.

Mr Dennis Foo, 65, said it was "painful" to close the club.

"When Clarke Quay started more than a decade ago, we were emulating Shanghai's Xintiandi (a restaurant, bar and retail district). Just a few years later, Clarke Quay became so popular that it surpassed that and became one of the top nightlife destinations in the world... today it is a far cry from its peak."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2018, with the headline 'Shanghai Dolly to close; curtailed hours blamed'. Print Edition | Subscribe