Covid-19: Malaysian nightclubs, karaoke operators hope to resume operations after closing for more than 100 days

Nightclubs and karaoke centres have suffered a major revenue blow with zero earnings since the MCO was put in place. — Picture courtesy of Zouk Club KL and Red Box Karaoke
Nightclubs and karaoke centres have suffered a major revenue blow with zero earnings since the MCO was put in place. — Picture courtesy of Zouk Club KL and Red Box Karaoke

KUALA LUMPUR, July 3 — As more businesses receive the green light from the government to resume operations during the recovery movement control order, the fate of nightclubs and karaoke centres remain uncertain.

After 108 days of total closure, many nightclubs and karaoke centres today get through another day of zero revenue while recalculating their mounting losses and monthly overheads.

To better understand how the pandemic and the movement control (MCO) order have shaken up the nightlife sector, Malay Mail spoke to representatives from Malaysia’s leading entertainment hub Zouk Club Kuala Lumpur and karaoke chain Red Box Karaoke.

Although both operators expressed their gratitude towards the government’s efforts to effectively curb the spread of Covid-19 disease, they hoped the authorities would consider allowing them to get back to business as they have suffered millions of losses over the past 15 weeks.

Here’s a closer look at what has been going on behind the closed doors of Zouk Club KL and Red Box Karaoke headquarters while the shutters remain closed.  

Zouk Club Kuala Lumpur has been closed since March 17, a day before the implementation of MCO. – Picture courtesy of Zouk Club KL
Zouk Club Kuala Lumpur has been closed since March 17, a day before the implementation of MCO. – Picture courtesy of Zouk Club KL

Zouk Club Kuala Lumpur

Once a bustling entertainment hub for thousands of party-goers every night, Zouk Club KL has gone through 108 nights of absolute silence ever since the movement control order was put in place on March 18. 

According to the club general manager Yean Ng, this year they were set to kick-off renovation works and roll out new concepts for their nine outlets but the pandemic and the sudden closure took their plans sideways.

Ng said their monthly overhead was about RM1 million which comprises rental, salary of its 90 full-time employees, electricity and other operating expenses.

Despite the hefty loss of revenue over the past 15 weeks, she said they have drawn up new strategies to hit the ground running again as soon as the government gives a green light to the nightlife sector to restart the business.

Zouk Club KL general manager Yean Ng talks about the ramifications of the MCO on their business. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Zouk Club KL general manager Yean Ng talks about the ramifications of the MCO on their business. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

For a start, she said once they are allowed to operate they will only open two outlets – Zouk Mainroom and Velvet Underground – to better manage the crowds and carefully monitor the standard operating procedures (SOPs) before they open more outlets.

“So far, the feedback on our social media has been overwhelming with many people asking us if we are opening soon.”

However, Ng said they have already laid out some of the potential challenges they may face once they open and are fully prepared to ensure everyone’s health and safety with their new SOPs.

“Although we will initially open two outlets with much lesser capacity than before, we will be prepared to manage the crowd at the door by having two separate entry points where we can adhere to the one-metre social distancing rules.

“Other basic measures such as temperature checks, sanitisation and registration will be carried out for every individual upon entry,” said Ng.

Inside the hall, Ng said they were looking at having durable transparent partitions in between sofa seats to ensure that each group of guests are segregated and protected.

Ng also admitted that managing a crowd could get more challenging when the guests are under the influence of alcohol but she said they are fully prepared for any potential risks. 

Zouk Club KL has looked into various ways to implement the rules set by Health Ministry once they are allowed to welcome guests back to the club. — Picture courtesy of Zouk Club KL
Zouk Club KL has looked into various ways to implement the rules set by Health Ministry once they are allowed to welcome guests back to the club. — Picture courtesy of Zouk Club KL

“We will ensure they are aware of the SOPs when they enter the premises and our security personnel will be on standby to remind them of the additional measures they have to obey.”

As for the hygiene measures, Ng said they were looking into purchasing disposable glassware so that guests could write their names and only stick to their own drinkware.

“We are also investing in our own disinfection equipment to frequently sanitise the outlets. 

“There will also be staff stationed at the common areas such as toilets and the bars to constantly sanitise the doorknobs, tabs and the bar area,” she added.

Despite the new measures and changes, Ng said they were trying their best to ensure that everyone could still enjoy the “Zouk clubbing experience” in peace of mind.

“We want the guests to walk out with the feeling that they still had the Zouk experience.”

Zouk Club KL will be utilising its advanced LED lighting system to create an enticing experience for guests without having body contacts. — Picture courtesy of Zouk Club KL
Zouk Club KL will be utilising its advanced LED lighting system to create an enticing experience for guests without having body contacts. — Picture courtesy of Zouk Club KL

She also hinted that they were finding new ways to utilise their high-tech LED lighting system where guests could have a different experience by looking and hearing without having body contacts.

“These could be done through shows and extravagant dance performances to give guests an enticing experience.”

Moving forward, Ng said the last quarter of the year was usually the busiest period with three major events including, Halloween, Christmas and the New Year.

“Hopefully if everything goes well and the situation remains under control, we will have big plans for these three events,” she said.

The MCO has cost Red Box Karaoke over RM2 million since March. — Picture courtesy of Red Box Karaoke
The MCO has cost Red Box Karaoke over RM2 million since March. — Picture courtesy of Red Box Karaoke

Red Box Karaoke

Red Box Karaoke was fully geared up to start its operations when the government announced the conditional MCO in early May, but the operator has yet to receive the green light although cinemas and theme parks were allowed to welcome back customers from July 1.

With eight outlets nationwide, the karaoke chain marketing manager Lim HaiSong said the prolonged closure has so far cost them at least RM2 million since March 18.

“The biggest overhead for us is the rental as all our eight outlets are located inside shopping malls.

“Apart from that we also have over 200 full-time staff along with other operating costs to keep the business alive,” he said.

Lim said although they have negotiated with the malls to give them discounts, they still feel the pinch as everything remains uncertain with zero revenue.

Acknowledging the government’s concerns over the health and safety protocols, Lim said they have come up with their own SOPs and have submitted to the authorities to seek their approval for reopening the business.

Red Box Karaoke carried out disinfection works during the CMCO in hopes of receiving the greenlight from the authorities to operate. – Picture courtesy of Red Box Karaoke
Red Box Karaoke carried out disinfection works during the CMCO in hopes of receiving the greenlight from the authorities to operate. – Picture courtesy of Red Box Karaoke

Lim said as soon as the government announced the CMCO, they carried out disinfection and deep cleaning works at all their outlets to prepare for reopening.

“As for the SOP, we have all the basic measures including, social distancing, registration system and sanitisation exercise in place to adhere to the Health Ministry’s rules.

“We have also reduced the capacity by having one-seat gap seating arrangements in the rooms to have social distancing measures.”

Lim hoped that the government would consider allowing them to start back the business by this month.

“Similar to the restaurants and cinemas we are ready to follow the SOP accordingly once the authorities give us the green light to operate.

“At the moment, we are going through a hard time with zero revenue and high monthly commitments,” added Lim.

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