By Sheela Sarvananda
Game changers are in town, with a distinct company ethos for your consideration.
Nightlife veterans Godwin Pereira and Ross Glasscoe have joined hands to open "The Vault" — an upscale bar reminiscent of the New York loft and London warehouse vibe.
With the same minimalist chic and some serious soul thrown in to the mix — not to mention the long history of the space itself — this latest foray sets the venue apart from other watering holes in town.
Situated in South Bridge road, right in the heart of Chinatown and across from the Sri Mariamman temple, the behemoth two-storey enclave was home to one of the first two OCBC banks that opened in Singapore, in the 1930s.
Hence, instead of the typical door at the entrance, you're greeted by a three-tonne vault in its place, which the team had moved from its original position at the back of house. No easy feat to achieve, but the stage has been set.
Don't let the somewhat intimidating façade fool you — as the partners say, once you step in, they want you to know that you're in a "safe" place. It's a strong statement and testament to your experience once you get past the door. Pun aside, look for the spirit and intention in their words, for this is a team that takes entertaining seriously.
Pereira reiterates this, saying, "We took a more creative approach even at the forefront, rather than setting it up as a constrained, corporate environment. It just doesn't work for F&B outlets. It's a key factor that your staff also has minds of their own because they bring and exude their character into the space. We want to provide an environment where they can express themselves and communicate freely — so that ideas get channeled across fast. And that will rub off on the venue."
Bringing this project together has been a labour of love for Glasscoe and Pereira.
Pereira's name is synonymous with music and entertainment here. He has 20 years in the business, starting out as a roadie, becoming a deejay and thereafter progressing to high-profile management roles in the scene here.
Glasscoe has decades in the industry as well, starting out in family-run resorts in the Caribbean and Ireland, counting a Michelin-rated restaurant among them. His track record spans different countries, both regionally and elsewhere.
The two decided to work together after knowing getting to know each other personally and professionally over the years. And their focus on creating a signature experience for clientele is clear.
"You have to bring in the intimacy. Obviously one of the key aspects in Singapore is the service-orientated approach which, to a lot of F&B companies, is just something to put on a piece of paper," said Glasscoe.
"The reality is something different and sometimes it has to do with a company culture. One of our main drives, is 'focus'. We set things up so managers do a lot less administrative tasks, so that they can focus on the floor, on the customers. This allows that opportunity to excel in those areas."
The venue also doubles as an art space on the first floor, where although the physical structure stays the same, all else is in a state of flux. Expect a free-form environment on the first floor, where a changing bill of artists — both local and international — will showcase their work across the different mediums.
With a couple of soft launches under their belt and the official opening just behind them, The Vault is a sign of good things to come. It stands out in the row of Chinatown shophouses it's located along. Walking up to the venue, surrounded by the heady smells of local food and tonics from nearby traditional medicine shops, and the intense aroma of incense being burned at the temple, you are almost transported back to a different time. You meander through heritage areas on your way to the venue, and once in, the transformation is complete.
Glasscoe and Pereira have successfully extracted the character of the space, without losing its integrity in the process.
Wood-panelled floors, bricks and high ceilings greet you — and somehow, once inside, time slows down. Despite the movement as staff step in to take care of you, there's a sense of being ensconced in the intoxicating times of days gone by.
Perhaps it's the attention to detail and the way The Vault makes you feel like you're the only patron the place.
Perhaps it's that you've left the frenetic pace of the world behind you once you're past the heavy door.
Perhaps it's that you can take a gander around you and see the world outside rushing by, while you nurse a good drink in your hands, far from the maddening crowds.
Somehow, in 2012, The Vault is still redolent of halcyon days of yore. An era of hedonism revisited, if you will — when there is a good time to be had and all you have to do is show up to the party.