Covid-19 Measures: Champions of Singapore’s Cocktail Industry Rally To Help Its Struggling Community
In the same way that Singapore’s feted dining industry is struggling to survive the uncertainties of the Covid-19 pandemic, its equally vibrant cocktail scene is facing uniquely challenging times. Thankfully, there are those who believe it’s not a question of if but how more can be done to save the industry.
“The cocktail bar industry is a niche and fairly young one,” shares Academy Chair of Asia's 50 Best Bars Vivian Pei who is also a founding member and vice-president of the recently established Singapore Cocktail Bar Association (SCBA), a non-profit organisation that was launched in May with the aim of lending immediate support to the cocktail community.
Pei tells us that while restaurants are working with the Restaurant Association of Singapore, and bars and nightclubs are supported by the Singapore Nightlife Business Association, it became apparent that there is a critical need to provide financial relief and crisis counsel for the cocktail bars and bar staff during this time.
“Our longer drawn purpose is to provide a platform for education and pave the way for opportunities that lead to positive career progression and business advancements,” she adds, highlighting as well, the need to coordinate efforts to reinforce Singapore as a globally recognised cocktail destination.
Expectedly, the response has been positive, says SCBA treasurer Andrew Yap, who is also managing partner of The Old Man Singapore. “In less than two weeks, we had gathered a list of over 50 bars, such as 28 HongKong Street, Bar Stories, Laut, Manhattan, Native, Shin Gi Tai, to name a few,” he notes. Yap explains that these establishments are divided into three categories, namely cocktail bars, restaurant bars and spirit bars, taking into consideration the breath of the cocktail scene in Singapore. To qualify, though, the establishment has to be a full-service cocktail bar with staff that are well-versed in classic cocktails.
The immediate goal is to raise funds, which the SCBA is hoping to do by getting sponsors keen to invest in the continuity of the Singapore cocktail industry to contribute to its Covid-19 Relief Fund. “The response has been encouraging, and we are still working hard towards our funding goal of $150,000,” Yap affirms. Thankfully, they also have the much-needed assistance of professionals in the required fields. “Administrative costs for SCBA for the first two years have been undertaken by Proof & Company, Jigger & Pony Group and the Singapore Cocktail Festival. We also have pro bono support from Accela, our corporate secretary; and Withers KhattarWong LLP our Legal Counsel. Both have been paramount in ensuring that SCBA is set up efficiently, so we can focus on fundraising.”
(Related: Singapore Cocktail Haven Jigger & Pony Is The Best Bar In Asia)
There are three relief brackets, he explains. The Bar Support Fund supports businesses, while the Bar Staff Support Fund supports individuals. And there’s the Industry Recovery Fund that is used to provide further recovery support for both businesses and individuals.
Guidelines are jointly developed by the founding members, which include Gan Guoyi, co-owner of the Jigger & Pony Group in Singapore and SCBA's founding president; Paul Gabie, director of 28 HongKong Street; and Ivy Woo, owner of Food News Integrated Marketing and co-founder of Singapore Cocktail Festival. These are then approved by SCBA’s six committee members—they are Bai Jiawei of Employees Only, Charmaine Thio of William Grant & Sons, Colin Chia of Nutmeg & Clove, David Nguyen-Luu of Manhattan, Jesse Vida of Atlas, and Jess Hutchinson of No Sleep Club.
(Related: How One Restaurant Group Is Leading The Industry Towards A Sustainable Future)
AN UNCERTAIN ROAD
The programmes that SCBA are working on are but pieces of the puzzle, shares Pei, who knows that in spite of all their efforts, the outcome remains uncertain. “We can only work as hard as possible to help the industry and hope for a strong recovery,” she asserts. The industry’s biggest asset at this time is its resilient, creative and resourceful people.
She remains confident that these new takeaway and home delivery services will continue to play a key role for some time to come. “Consumers have gotten used to these and will be loath to give it up,” she posits. “I also think that a lot of businesses will be reconsidering their concepts; I know that some higher end venues have been doing well serving up more casual fare and this will likely continue in some form.”
The significant drop in the number of tourists, she adds, has essentially forced businesses to focus more on local customers and local supply, and look hard at delivering “even more memorable experiences”.
(Related: Artwork By Singapore’s Top Bartenders And Chefs To Be Sold In Charity Auction)