Bye Dragonfly, hello Neverland

15 October 2012 / 4 years 1 week ago

Source: Straits TimesShowing clubbers' changing tastes, landmark Mandopop club Dragonfly is buzzing off to make way for a Thai disco.The company that operates Dragonfly, public-listed St James Holdings, has signed a $760,000 joint venture with the owners of one of the biggest Thai clubs here, Club Neverland.Dragonfly's 10,000 sq ft space will close in the final week of September and be transformed into Singapore's second Club Neverland. The first outlet opened at Orchard Plaza three years ago and has been pulling in the crowds ever since.The new Thai club, which has yet to be named, will open a few days after Dragonfly's exit.In another, separate move, St James' Latin-inspired club Movida will be relaunched as an as-yet-unnamed nightspot with a North American vibe. Movida's resident band Banda Morena will move to St James' Wine Bar & Bistro, which will be renamed Movida.Mandopop fans shocked by the loss of Dragonfly need not fret about losing their favourite resident bands and singers, though. Performers including veterans William Scorpion and Fatt Zhai will shift over to Clarke Quay and St James' other Mandopop club, Shanghai Dolly, a bigger venue at 17,000 sq ft.On the switch to a Thai disco, which just a few years ago would have been unimaginable, Mr Dennis Foo, chief executive of St James which manages a stable of nightclub venues including Shanghai Dolly, Powerhouse and The Boiler Room, told Life!: "The Thai market is definitely lucrative enough to enter. Singapore needs a premium live entertainment venue and this (Neverland) fits it."The move is eye-popping as six- year-old Dragonfly is the anchor venue at entertainment multiplex St James Power Station and one of the biggest Mandopop clubs in Singapore. In its heyday, it pulled in an average of 40,000 patrons a month. But now Thai discos, with their pretty dancers, live music and culture of patrons buying $50 flower garlands for their favourite singers, are hot.The scene has been growing since the arrival of Club Neverland and now there are at least 20 Thai disco venues, including Club Nana in Magazine Road and Pure Thai Disco at Golden Mile Complex.Recently, many Thai discos have rebranded themselves, shedding their old image of sleazy dancers and drink hosts drawing an older brigade, and now have an Asian-fusion repertoire that attracts affluent clubgoers in their 20s and 30s.The tie-up came about after Mr Foo's son and St James' coordinating director of operations Gordon Foo, 30, approached Neverland's founders, Singaporeans Kwek Kon Chun, 33, and Tin Yu Jiann, 34, a month ago about opening a premium, live entertainment venue.Their 10,000 sq ft club at Orchard Plaza draws around 10,000 to 15,000 patrons monthly and has a resident Thai band playing Thai, Mandopop and English top 40 hits. It also hires DJs and dancers from Thailand, Korea, Taiwan and Japan. The founders opened a second outlet in Kuala Lumpur late last year and teamed up with live music venue Tab at Orchard Hotel in January to introduce a daily live Asian-fusion entertainment showcase.Of the St James move, Mr Tin said: "With this place, we need to have a punch. We're going to use this as a way to showcase the Thai industry and we're hoping to attract premium clients and new customers who are willing and able to spend more money."He added that the new club will be "100 per cent Thai", with plans to kickstart a live concert series, bringing in popular Thai pop and rock bands.As for Dragonfly, Mr Dennis Foo said the change is not because the club has been doing badly. Takings have been "positive", but the crowd is 30 per cent less than what the club attracted in the first three years of operation.He added that the consolidation of Dragonfly with Shanghai Dolly will "make a better Mandopop venue", putting talent together under one roof.He said: "I'm coming to 60 years of age, the market has changed, I've got to give to people who can relate to the current market and have experience. They will have the drive and together you can see the diversity of our total offerings."As for the other big change at St James, a second $600,000 joint venture will see Movida morphing into a club targeting patrons aged 25 and above with a band playing pop, rock and R&B covers, including current chart-toppers. Called Transit, the band are made up of musicians from the United States, Canada and Britain.The relaunch kicks off in six weeks and behind it are Scottish bar operator Clark Martin, 45, who runs four bars and restaurants including Highlander in Clarke Quay and the Queen & Mangosteen at VivoCity, and Canadian Georges Elchakieh, 47, who owns entertainment company el-live Productions and manages a stable of bands.Said Mr Elchakieh: "It's going to be a more New York, Montreal kind of vibe."Mr Dennis Foo said: "In nightlife, it's just like a movie - it can't run in the cinema forever. So this is one period, in a multi-theatre complex, that we changed two movies to bring fresh appeal."Business development executive Huang Shi Hui, 34, who is a Dragonfly regular, said: "It's a bit sad about Dragonfly closing, but I guess I will head down to Shanghai Dolly if I want to hear some live Canto music."The Thai club is something new, I'll go check it out if other people are - maybe the trend is now T-pop after K-pop."

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