A pub owner was recently put behind bars for recruiting women to work in a chain of pubs as prostitutes. So what really goes on in such bars? The New Paper on Sunday finds out.
Unless you are a big spender or a regular face on the premises, chances are you won't be offered any "extra" or "special" services.
In other words, you have to be a VIP guest if you are expecting some action inside the bars, better known as "clubs" and "pubs" to those familiar with the premises.
These include a former mamasan who was convicted in 2008 and patrons, some with girls, that we cornered at popular supper spots in Geylang and Havelock Road.
We also spoke to a bouncer who retired in 2012 after working in the industry for nearly 40 years.
All of them refused to name the bars. Instead, they offered only road names and generic areas such as Jalan Besar, Geylang and Orchard.
There are basically three categories of clubs, says the ex-bouncer, who has worked in more than 15 clubs.
He says in a mix of Mandarin and Hokkien: "You got the lup sup (Hokkien for dirty) bars in the lowest class, where the girls charge less for their services. At these bars, the patrons are mostly the blue-collar workers.
"The middle-class ones are frequented by the man-on-the-street, while the high-class ones are, of course, your KTV lounges."
He adds that some pubs have cubicles that allow their patrons some form of privacy. Women will activate a smoke machine when they get intimate with clients.
Some operators also install security cameras, which allow them to monitor the activities inside the club.
He says: "Other than watching out for the cops, the feeds also allow the operators to ensure that the girls are not being harassed or engaging in sexual activities without informing the management and pocketing the money."
But many pub operators prefer not to allow sexual activities inside their establishments as they don't want to risk being busted, he points out.
"So any action is negotiated outside the clubs.
The former mamasan, who was fined for helping to manage a brothel, agrees.
She says: "Tip-offs to the authorities are typically made by disgruntled customers or those who are jealous of the business.
"So you can't tell when the police is going to walk in."
In the case where she was charged, the hostesses in the KTV lounge were told to perform topless dances and sexual services for their customers inside the toilet cubicles.
She says: "The women were told specifically that they must not have sex, even inside the private KTV rooms.
"We were discreet and yet we got caught."
Being discreet and allowing only "bookings", or charging a "bar fine" is a common practice adopted by most operators.
A bar fine refers to the amount a customer pays to take a woman out for activities that usually includes sexual intercourse.
Says Madam Former Mamasan: "This way, you can claim that the transaction took place without your knowledge."
A patron who regularly visits pubs says that he picks the place according to the occasion.
"You definitely won't bring your business associates to anything that is less classy, right?"
But he says that he prefers those which "offer sex on the ground" (at the premises).
The night TNPS spoke to him at the supper spot, he and two friends had just had "some special on-the-spot services", before deciding to pay "bar fines" for four women.
He did not want to name the pub nor give us his contact details, but claims that he and his friends spent a total of about $4,500 there. He says: "It was worth the money, of course."
A sales director, who wants to be known only as Lim, used to be a regular customer too, but stopped going to them after he got married.
He says: "Big bucks must change hands first - how soon you get offered the services depends on how generous you are with your money."
TNPS understands that prices for services like oral sex, manual stimulation and sexual intercourse vary from pub to pub. Prices can range from a low of $20 to $300 for one oral sex session.
One "ladies' drink" can cost between $20 and $60. Overnight "bookings" or "bar fines" range between $250 and $1,000, depending on the "standard" of the pubs.
The women usually get a 30 per cent cut of the fee.
But with the constant crackdowns on the joints, many pubs have closed down or been forced out of business, says Mr Ex-bouncer.
"Which is why I decided to retire, because I was tired of being out of a job each time one of the pubs I worked for was raided," he says.
This article was first published on Oct 26, 2014.
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