Circular Road: From back street to centre stage
WHAT a difference two years makes. When Godwin Pereira, Ross Glasscoe and their two business partners started The Vault nightclub in 2012, they were merely looking to have a space where they could fuse their mutual interests in art, music and nightlife.
Now, The Vault has moved from its original South Bridge Road venue to larger premises in Circular Road, and the group has gone on to open a second nightclub, called Kyo, in Cecil Street. More notably, though, they have also taken on the mammoth task of transforming one of Singapore's most visibly salacious streets: Circular Road.
In October last year, the men, operating as the Limited Edition Concepts (LEC) group, inked an $8 million deal to take over the master leases of 28 shophouses along the street.
Presiding over a combined 28,000 sq ft, they are now the road's anchor tenants. And they are hoping they can bank on this to fend off Circular Road's reputation as little more than Boat Quay's girly bar and karaoke lounge-clad back street.
The transformation involves four phases, notes Mr Pereira, and the group is just embarking on the second.
The first phrase, he elaborates, was the relocation of The Vault in December. The second is the rolling out of three to four new concepts, such as French wine bar and creperie Le Comptoir, upscale ultra-lounge Chateaux and live music and sports bar Hero's - a clutch more will follow in the third phase.
The final phase - targeted to be rolled out by July, before the Formula One season starts in September - will be to kick off outdoor events such as fashion shows and sports displays along the street.
"Club Street doesn't have a flat land surface, but Circular Road with its long, flat stretch is something that can be turned into an extended runway or graffiti walls, with a myriad of other possibilities," Mr Glasscoe suggests.
Though Circular Road stretches for just 400m, it offers plenty of upside, say the LEC group and incoming tenants.
Chief among them is its proximity to the working CBD crowd. The deal was further sweetened when the Urban Redevelopment Authority announced last month that the three-month pedestrianisation trial of Circular Road which began in November last year will be extended until the end of July this year. Under the trial, a 250m stretch of the road is closed to traffic from 6pm to 1am on Fridays and Saturdays.
Even so, LEC is not confining its ambitions to Circular Road. The target, says Mr Pereira, is to build up the 180 employee-strong group as a parent company for multiple food and beverage (F&B) brands, or "a house of brands" in management strategy-speak.
Eventually, Mr Pereira says, the entire project will provide a business model that can be transplanted to other cities in the region, deploying different combinations of existing tenants for each iteration.
79 Circular Road
IT DOES not matter that Circular Road lacks the gloss and pomp associated with Marina Bay Sands - Andrew Carver and Sharma Das are pretty confident that they will settle quickly into their new digs in Circular Road.
The two men formerly behind Russian-themed Dom Lounge at Marina Bay Sands will next month open their new venture, Chateaux, in a shophouse along the up-and-coming F&B stretch.
The modern French-themed ultra-lounge will take up 5,000 sq ft of the building's second and third floors, along with the open-air rooftop.
The lounges located on the second and third floors will be kitted out in lush fabrics set off by bold French-inspired wall features and luxury chandeliers - in line with the nightspot's highlight on top-shelf champagnes and vodkas served at VIP tables with bottle service.
The rooftop bar will open only a few weeks later, and will be a cocktail-centric space led by youthful former Pangea bartender Jeffrey Teo. The $2 million project is believed to be one of the only rooftop bars along the street, so drink it all in with unblocked views of the revelry down below.
"Singaporeans are getting more picky about where they go on a night out," says Mr Carver, who grew up in Singapore.
"They no longer want to be in overly commercialised environments - they prefer to seek new experiences and explore new places instead."
69 Circular Road
Opens in early July
WHAT do music and sports have in common? An array of role models for the rest of us, it seems. Which explains why the people behind popular Boat Quay bar Mogambo are naming their new spot Hero's.
The 2,500 sq ft space set to occupy three shophouse units in Circular Road will be fashioned as a Western saloon-style bar with a modern spin.
Live music and sports will be the highlight of the space, which will open in early July. Apart from several wide-screen television sets airing the biggest games on the sporting calendar, the bar's walls will be adorned with memorabilia, such as autographed jerseys from sports legends like David Beckham, Pele and Muhammad Ali and album covers and guitars from musical greats like The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger and Elvis Presley.
There will be open mic nights and Sunday jam sessions. Modern pop songs and rock music from the 1960s to the current day will dominate the playlist. The concept is much needed, says Mogambo's managing director Rick Bower.
"The Singapore live music scene took a bit of a dip a while back, and it's now making a comeback. It's a good time to bring in a new live music venue with a new concept."
79 Circular Road
NOW predominantly known for its boozy British and Irish pubs, Circular Road will get a breath of upscale French air when the building that formerly housed Archipelago Brewery reopens next month.
Set to make its mark on the first floor of the four-storey shophouse is Le Comptoir, a modern French creperie and wine bar. Run by Parisian couple Marie and Antoine Rouland, who also run casual wine bar O Batignolles in Club Street, the 90-seater will dish out French sweet crepes and savoury galettes in a variety of flavours that range from classic to fusion.
Purists can go for buckwheat galettes that fold in a traditional splay of eggs, ham, cheese, onions and mushrooms, while adventurous palates can choose Asian-influenced options filled with wok-fried seafood or minced beef and topped with coriander, fried onions and cashew nuts.
Young French chef Pierre Calvez, who previously worked at a creperie in Zurich, will preside over the kitchen of Le Comptoir, which means the counter in French. The idea to do crepes, says Mr Rouland, stemmed from their "similarity to well-received Asian foods like Indian pratas" and their flexibility in accommodating a wide assortment of flavours.