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30 Dec 2006

one last happy weekend

Singapore's Happy club will close its doors for good after a final New Year's Eve countdown bash this weekend. Fridae has a heart-to-heart with co-owner Alan Seah who shares his thoughts about the gay clubbing scene and why "running away to Taiwan, Hong Kong and KL to be who we are for a weekend isn't the answer."

Happy, one of Singapore's most known gay clubs, will call it a night after a grand finale on New Year's Eve. According to its weekly newsletter sent to partygoers, the building - which the club is housed - has been sold.

Located in the Tanjong Pagar/Chinatown district, the club was named "Singapore's hottest nightspot" by Wallpaper* Magazine in 2005 and has hosted numerous local performers as well as DJs from across Asia and around the world since it opened its doors in 2004.

Well known and loved by partygoers not just in Singapore but abroad, Happy will also be remembered by Nation partygoers for organising the Pirates Paradise poolside party featuring DJ Severino in Phuket in October this year.

This weekend, Happy will host the last Girls' Night Out party with co-hosts Party Junkie on Saturday night and on New Year's Eve, DJ Victor Cheng from Taiwan will spin as singer-actress Pam Oei counts down to the new year.

Fridae has a heart-to-heart with co-owner Alan Seah who shares his thoughts about why "post-gay" Happy could perhaps be a little ahead of its time, the gay clubbing scene in Singapore and why "running away to Taiwan, Hong Kong and KL to be who we are for a weekend isn't the answer."

æ:Happy is going out with a big bang on NYE after over two years. How do you feel?

Alan: How do I feel? Of course I feel sad. Happy has been our baby and my whole life for the last few years. It is also sad to see a wonderful team - one that has worked damn hard - breaking up. But Happy has had an amazing run and while we could continue, I also feel that it's a good time for us to go. I'm glad to say that at the end of the day, the chief emotion I have is great pride in what we've achieved. While of course we weren't perfect, I think Happy did Singapore proud. I dare say Happy was a world-class club. One that so many visitors have told us that they wished they had in their own country. And one that the Singapore community was proud to bring their friends to. It also dragged the Singapore scene into the 21st century. Mostly for the better. Before Happy there were no international DJs in gay clubs, no connection with the booming Asian and international circuit (other than occasional and very welcome Fridae events of course), no attempt to draw people out on weekday nights, no special events... in other words no innovation. It is with great satisfaction that I know that Happy leaves the scene a very different place than when we entered it. Hopefully the scene will not stagnate after our departure. I urge new blood to take up the challenge to keep the scene fresh and competitive.

As for us, we always set out to be a whole new experience: A place that was inclusive. Of course we were first and foremost a gay club. But one where gay boys could bring their straight friends, where lesbians could feel comfortable and where drag queens could strut their stuff. I think that is progressive and the way forward. And perhaps a little ahead of its time. To all the people who complained that "there are too many girls in Happy" - well sorry you didn't get it - that was the whole point. We never set out to replicate existing clubs. We always knew who we were, and what the Happy brand represented. Don't get me wrong - there is always room for an all-boys club and having one (or more) is important. But that's not what Happy was about. Our very name "Happy" was meant to be post-'gay'. A place and a state-of-mind where we could break out of our ghetto-mentality and not consider our lives just 'taboo' (no offence implied), but to be happy being who we are and to be willing and be open and share it - in all its fabulousness - with the whole world.

æ:Which has been the most memorable party?

Alan: I would say that we're really proud of all our SWEAT parties. Our SWEAT parties raised more than S$25,000 (US$16,000) for Action for AIDS. Plus it was a vehicle to regularly spread the message of safer sex on a monthly and continuous basis. Especially in this day and age, gay establishments have an obligation to be socially responsible. As does every member of our society. I hope other clubs fill the vacuum we will leave. Other than that, another series of great parties we ran were our faghag appreciation nights. One that stands out was the one where we had faghag arm wrestling. We expected each contest to be over in a minute or two but it was amazing how those gals went at it for EVER! Plus the whole concept of Faghag appreciation night kinda summed up our whole brand and to me is totally unique. I have never heard of a faghag appreciation night at a club anywhere else in the world.

æ:How would you like Happy to be remembered by partygoers?

Alan: I just hope partygoers had a great time at Happy. That they met hot boys and had hot times together. That they met the love of their life at Happy. Heard music that broke the mould and danced like they've never danced before. And most importantly, that they felt a sense of community.

æ:What's your parting message to partygoers?

Alan: I'd like to say this: Don't give up on Singapore. Yes, it seems that our country doesn't want us to have fun here, let alone exist. But running away to Taiwan, Hong Kong and KL to be who we are for a weekend isn't the answer. Yes I understand why you feel you have to go away to play. And by all means go and have a blast with your fellow South and North- East Asian brothers and sisters. But do also invest your energy here in Singapore. More than ever we need to come together and be united here where - no matter what the government or other homophobic Singaporeans say - we do belong. While partying isn't necessarily the most eloquent political statement, it is a surprisingly potent one and something that can bind us together and make us stronger as a community. So support your local gay businesses, all of them. And party on!

What's on this weekend
Girls' Night Out
Sat, Dec 30
No cover charge. Boys welcome

Happy New Year's Sleaze
DJ Victor Cheng + all night muscle hunks show
Sun, Dec 31
Admission: $25 *incl. 1 drink & party pack (while stocks last)


Reader's Comments

1. 2006-12-30 12:54  
Congrats to Happy on an epic run!
2. 2006-12-30 13:13  
Thank you Alan, Eevon, Glen, Laurindo, and the whole team for making us all in Singapore, oh-so-Happy. Not only did you change the game, peeps should remember you took a chance on George and gave him his first residency. We hope this won't be the last we see of you!

I had a laugh when I read "post-gay". That's so post-modern! Classic Alan!
3. 2006-12-30 13:41  
I really like the post gay idea. Maybe Happy should have been called 'FREE' instead.
Also, communications to hit home the idea had not been strong enough, if any at all.
The party scene iin Singapore is getting stronger, just with one less venue - no more happy - sad.
Thanks Alan, Glenn and team for the happy times we shared.
4. 2006-12-30 16:43  
Sad that Happy is closing down this sunday.If the staffs can be more friendly and no attitude to their customers,I believe Happy will still be around.Best to be humble !
5. 2006-12-30 16:58  
Yes, many of us have witnessed the crowd-packed full Happy, almost as THE DEFAULT GAY CLUB in Singapore, in the past.

However, I felt more importantly we shld also look into the reason why Happy customers left it "almost suddenly" in recent mths... There must b a reason... I've seen many weekends of almost empty Happy, open for e handful of customers in recent mths.

The reason for Happy's bowing out, wld b a great lesson for other gay clubs in Singapore.

Or perhaps the reason is so obvious (especially to the frequent clubbers) that it need not b spelt out or covered here?

While I'm sad to see a gay club gone, I also applause those who attempted new gay clubbing choices recently... and the other gay clubs who continue to b in business for us.

Looking forward to more gay nite activities choices in 2007...
6. 2006-12-30 20:13  
oh ... a place that is so gorgeous that it fits its name perfectly.

i sure did have wholesome of good memories at happy since the post party of nation.04.
7. 2006-12-30 20:32  
sad to see u go ..HAppY!
8. 2006-12-30 22:22  
nice bar - shame about the hopeless bar tenders (with far too much attitude), and awful djs. why wait half an hour to get a drink from someone who has to be reminded 3 times and then another half an hour for someone else has to sort out your change (can you clog up a bar any more efficiently ?).

great idea, but the staff/djs consistently let it down. next time more space, proper staff, and grab a couple of those taiwanese djs from nation 05, u'll make a fortune.
9. 2006-12-30 23:18  
I went there once before and never went back again...I felt that it wasnt that happening...
Whereas my straight said it was cool..
So, i wonder could it because of the wrong targeted people....
10. 2006-12-31 00:11  
I have always supported Happy, and of course Alan, Eevon & Glen are dear friends. However, can't be said the same for the staff/bartenders who think they are sooo 'ATAS' that to get a drink requires 30 mins and some of them wopuldn't even respond to you while they are practicing their bottle flanking.

Hello?! Kinda remind me back to Centro days when the behaviour from teh bartenders were unacceptable - waitaminit, most of the staff from ex-Centro works at Happy, therefore explains the 'erratic' response.

I am sad to see Happy goes, but i keep my fingers crossed for more new clubs to evolve and hopefully, more people will step up to be adventurous and take risks. Best wishes to Alan and the staff for their future endeavors.

Take note: This is not the end - it is the Start Of Something New! Cheers!!!
11. 2006-12-31 03:18  
i attended almost every piano night that was held this year. i'll miss the intimate setting in which i sang along to songs belted out by local personalities when the club closes. i do hope existing and new joints will adopt the concept, which provides a refreshing alternative to typical gay clubbing.
12. 2006-12-31 04:25  
i remember my friend went to claim his first free drink with the drink coupon. then she took the order took the coupon. when the drink finally arrive. she insist on collecting $10 from my friends. And stated that she did not take any drink coupon from him.

then she starts to turn rude n give sacarstic remarks. so my friend has no choice but to pay AGAIN for his 1st drink.

13. 2006-12-31 04:59  
Happy was the first gay club I went in. Since then I started to having a liking for clubbing.

Happy's closure didn't come as a surprise, especially when they changed their operations to a 3 day week in end 2006.

What I am surprise is that how come a club with such nice music, international guest DJ, great profile and potential, is closing? Is it because that running a gay club in Singapore is that difficult?
14. 2006-12-31 08:35  
i'm surprised how much ingratitude is expressed in these posts! HAPPY was a brilliant bar, and one that i was very proud to visit every time i came back to singapore from london.

in terms of architecture and interior design, the club venue and the club design broke conventions by integrating outdoor and indoor spaces, as well as combining asian and western concepts of bar-spaces.

in terms of atmosphere, i have not met a team of more talented staff - one that consists of award-winning bartenders. it always felt like a great time with good friends in a place like HAPPY.

i will always have fond memories of HAPPY. thank you, alan!

Comment #15 was deleted by its author
16. 2006-12-31 09:32  
Happy, Great name and a great club. Fantastic!. Anyone who thinks differently is a moron and that includes some of the people who have left comments above. It was a gay club, run by gay men for gay men. "NOT" a lets make a fast buck Sunday crowd puller like so many that have come and gone. It will be missed and leave a huge hole in the scene here in Singapore. Alan, thank you for the memories!
17. 2007-01-02 08:18  
Thanks Eavon, Glen and Alan for making Happy work for the day since ts opening. We were at a lost after Centro closure and it was great to see the same staffs all in Happy. It was like a family reunited. I jst love the decors and not to mention the toilet. Happy sure gets the gaiety out of us. The spot was also a former 'Tabs' so it brings back memories of the long sneaky queue that goes all the way to maxwell. Anyway, all the best and hope we wil see something new and fresh soon somewhere somehow. - shamz
18. 2007-01-02 13:28  
why is it closing anyway?
19. 2007-01-03 10:23  
the bartenders may not have been the most friendly, but kudos to all the servers and other staff! they were by far the friendliest and most inclusive - living up to happy's very purpose of existence.
20. 2007-01-04 00:08  
Happy itself is not a bad club indeed in terms of deco/music/atomosphere for which we liked it quite much at the beginning. I think the problem lies seriously at the attitude and service standard of their staff/bartanders which again reflects their management standard. We had some really bad experiences there, felt cheated with diluted cocktails, very rude response from their bartander after our complaints....... Anyway since that incident we have never been to Happy again. quite a pity! The leaving of Happy provides some good space for other new comers in the local gay scene. Guys, watch out!
21. 2007-01-04 22:20  
Happy is closing because business has been bad
Business has gone down while over at Taboo and Why Not business is booming
Two reasons (1) bad attitude door staff (2) bad attitude bar staff
You cannot run a gay club and have all kinds of people cutting queues including straight people because they know the stupid door bitch
Dear Alan, please dont claim empty credit for safe sex
I have been to many Sweat and have never seen any safe sex messages
Gay men are increasingly making up most of all new HIV infections in Singapore
My wish has come true
22. 2007-01-10 02:59  
My sole visit to the place reminded me how much longterm ear damage is done to those who go to clubs regularly....why make your body beautiful in the gym if you are going to end up deaf? Living with a deaf Dad I can tell you that is no joke. Whatever club you attend in the future make sure you wear earplugs, you will still hear the music I am sure. But thanks Happy you may have charged plenty for drinks and admission but at least we got to dance gay in Singapore.
23. 2007-01-11 12:19  
In Gay business, obessions with having only the elite or the "in" group of people, is bound to fail. One more thing, put a leash on the door b***h, she is really bad news for the business.

Taboo's PR is really good. It is the best.
24. 2007-01-12 10:24  
For good times, for bad times; HAPPY had indeed seen it all from it's first soft launch on a weekday nite to it's big bang closure on NYE. A big hand to Alan et al for all the wonderful, wonderful memories!
25. 2007-01-15 16:19  
happy rocks.
my first attempt there and stick to it to .
but now, no longer.

Comment #26 was deleted by its author

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