'King's ransom' for royal-themed bar

'King's ransom' for royal-themed bar

With its decor "inspired by the princely... Rajasthan", it was meant to be a luxury watering hole fit for royalty.

Now, however, owners of the proposed bar at the Mandarin Orchard Hotel will have to fork out a "king's ransom" - even though it never opened for business.

The royal-themed development on the 39th floor stalled after fire safety issues meant it could not get an entertainment licence. Its operator - Three Sixty Degree - then became embroiled in a court dispute with the owners of the hotel.

But the wrangle has now come to an end after the High Court ordered the company to hand over an estimated $2.2 million in default payments and arrears, and gave it two weeks to vacate the premises.

On Monday, the firm vowed not to give up, saying it would look for another venue. "We are a bit shaken but we are not broken," said spokesman Preeti Tiwari.

Three Sixty Degree - a Singapore-based company of foreign investors - paid $415,000 in advance when it took out a three-year lease on the prime unit in November 2010.

But its grand design contained a fatal flaw. The lifts stopped at the 38th floor - one below the bar. So to get in, customers had to climb an open staircase which was not protected from fire.

This could still have worked as the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) treated both levels as one for the purposes of safety, due to the unusual design feature.

It was therefore prepared to grant a safety certificate for level 39 alone - but only on condition that both floors had a combined occupancy of no more than 120 people.

This was something Three Sixty Degree could not accept. It argued that it had no control over how many customers were on the lower floor, which was run by hotel owner Overseas Union Enterprise (OUE).

Both companies sued each other - with the court asked to decide which of them bore the commercial risks of the unique design feature.

Three Sixty Degree's lawyer Spring Tan argued that OUE should never have offered to lease both floors separately as the SCDF treated both as one unit for fire safety purposes.

But the hotel owner, represented by lawyers Melvin Chan and Olivia Low, countered that its tenant was obliged under the lease terms to get the necessary licences from the relevant agencies.

Yesterday, judgment grounds released by Judicial Commissioner Vinodh Coomaraswamy made clear that Three Sixty Degree had only itself to blame for its failure to obtain fire-safety clearance.

The judge said it took the risk of level 39 not being suitable for its plans when it signed the lease.

He added that the hotel owner cannot "be responsible for this fiasco", saying that it had helped as far as possible and that Three Sixty Degree "bore the burden" of making sure at least one of its applications for the fire safety certificate succeeded.

A Mandarin Orchard spokesman said yesterday it had since repossessed the premises. "The facility is currently unoccupied and we have no firm plans on how we will utilise the space," she added.

Ms Tiwari told The Straits Times: "We came here to invest and explore business opportunities. We chose the Mandarin and not some other place like Clarke Quay or Boat Quay because of its special features. We appreciate Singapore as it is business- friendly and are now looking at some possible alternatives."

vijayan@sph.com.sg


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