Banking on drinking buddies

PHOTO: Banking on drinking buddies

They are young, hungry and fast becoming big movers and shakers in Singapore's nightlife scene.

Just over a year after setting up lifestyle and entertainment group Limited Edition Concepts, the four partners are embarking on a massive expansion plan. The group, comprising Singaporean Godwin Pereira, 39; Irish national Ross Glasscoe, 33; Indian national Hemant Tucker, 38; and Frenchman Xavier Meit, 37, announced last week an $8-million deal to take over 28 shophouse units in Circular Road.

The deal, which effectively makes them the anchor tenant in the area, with 28,000 sq ft of space, will allow them to introduce new food and beverage, and nightlife concepts over the next few months. The master lease will last between six and 10 years for the units.

It is a highly ambitious plan for the company, which was formed last April and currently runs two nightspots in town - Club Kyo in Cecil Street and The Vault in South Bridge Road.

But both Mr Pereira and Mr Glasscoe, the creative drivers of the group who handle the day-to-day operations and marketing on a full-time basis, tell SundayLife! that they are taking a "realistic approach" to their business.

Mr Pereira says that they are not going to operate all 28 shophouse units.

He says: "It's not for us to grow and grow and grow. There's a proportion of risk. We want to build up to a certain level but we also want to make it a community thing, where we bring in good operators who have something a little bit different to offer, to add great value. The tenant mix there will be one-of-a-kind."

The two men are no strangers to the nightlife industry, with more than 30 years of experience in music and operations between them.

Mr Pereira cut his teeth in the industry with Europa Holdings, Singapore's biggest club and pub chain owner in the 1990s. He was DJ-ing and assisting with the entertainment programme at several of the company's outlets from 1993 to 1999, before moving to nightspot Centro at One Fullerton, where he worked in a similar capacity from 2001 to 2004.

He was also entertainment director for nightlife operator LifeBrandz from 2005 to 2008, which ran the former nightclub Ministry of Sound at Clarke Quay, and at rooftop restaurant club Ku De Ta at Marina Bay Sands from 2010 to last year.

Mr Glasscoe, a Singapore permanent resident who has lived here for eight years, has been operations director for pub chain Gaelic Inns, boutique hotel The Club Hotel and the public- listed Harry's Holdings since arriving here.

Limited Edition Concepts' other camera-shy partners Tucker and Meit, both Singapore permanent residents who have been living here for about seven years, handle the business development while holding full-time jobs. Mr Tucker is a managing director for wealth management in a bank and Mr Meit is a strategic analyst for a bank.

Mr Pereira jokes that the quartet's partnership started as "drinking friendships". They met one another about six years ago through mutual friends, at bars or clubs they were either working in or drinking at. All are married with children, except Mr Tucker, who is a bachelor.

Says Mr Glasscoe: "All four of us like to go out and enjoy the nightlife. We try to socialise at least once a week."

Mr Tucker adds: "We each have different professional backgrounds but we complement one another. More importantly, we agree on the fundamentals of how to build a multi-dimensional company that comprises a good balance of creativity and corporate structures. We share a common goal, and that provides stability and direction."

Over the years, they talked about going into business together. Finally in April last year, they came up with an initial investment of $1 million from their own pockets and Limited Edition Concepts was formed.

Three months later, they launched upscale bistro- lounge The Vault on the former premises of OCBC bank in Chinatown.

In March this year, they opened basement nightclub Club Kyo in Cecil Street. Kyo, a hip club lounge, caters to working professionals, expatriates and creative types in the heart of the Central Business District.

The company broke even after just six months of opening The Vault. The bistro lounge was packing in a crowd of 1,200 on weekends, two weeks after it started operating.

"We were really blessed with this project," says Mr Pereira of The Vault's success. "We never once imagined to have this room packed with people having fun. We thought 'okay, we'll start a space with something small downstairs and have a lounge upstairs for a few friends to come have a drink and a giggle and hopefully, people would come'."

But he adds that The Vault is an example of the group's "go-against-the-grain approach to doing things". For instance, he points out that they chose to "isolate ourselves but still be in a cool area, while everyone else was in Marina Bay Sands and Clarke Quay".

"We focus on the people and the customers, and that's our edge."

Mr Glasscoe and Mr Pereira say Club Kyo is also doing well, with about 600 people patronising it on Wednesday nights. The crowd swells to between 1,300 and 1,800 on Fridays and Saturdays, depending on which guest DJ is spinning that night.

The $8 million that the partners are pumping into their expansion in Circular Road comes from the profits of The Vault and Club Kyo, as well as their own savings. They planned the venture over 10 months.

While the group says it is too early to give information about their upcoming projects, Mr Pereira says it hopes to launch two more food and beverage concepts in Circular Road by next March.

The Vault will move from its current location to Circular Road early next month. It will take up four shophouse units - a total of 5,500sq ft.

The remaining units will be sublet to other businesses - the vision is to bring "bespoke personalities" and seasoned operators to one accessible place.

"There will be some cool brand names from overseas, underdogs that are just going to be huge... and one concept with a celebrity involved", says Mr Pereira.

Mr Meit adds: "There will always be space for creative concepts with quality offerings. Singapore's population and size work for it, in the sense that it stimulates creativity and allows for fast changes, which also builds valuable experience for a company looking to be a long-term player."

Mr Glasscoe stresses that creativity has been "the foundation of our company and the core value among four of us".

Adds Mr Pereira with a laugh: "But I still think we should do an Irish pub selling curry. That's cool, right?"

His partner quips in reply: "Then you and I can put our faces there. An Indian guy and an Irish guy, it'll work."

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