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Singapore Cocktail Bar Association formed to help keep pandemic-hit bars afloat

With many cocktail bars struggling to stay afloat after being closed for almost three months, a new non-profit, the Singapore Cocktail Bar Association (SCBA), has been formed to give them a lifeline.

Its immediate target is to raise $150,000 from corporate donations, which will be channelled into three relief funds to support individuals who are affected by pay cuts or have lost their jobs, give newer bars a fighting chance at survival and help the industry recover.

The association, formed in April, comprises leading lights in the industry such as founding president Gan Guoyi (co-owner of Jigger & Pony Group), vice-president Vivian Pei (academy chair for Asia’s 50 Best Bars) and treasurer Andrew Yap (co-owner of The Old Man Singapore).

The founding board members are Mr Paul Gabie (chief executive officer of Proof & Company and director of 28 HongKong Street) and Ms Ivy Woo (owner of Food News Integrated Marketing and co-founder of the Singapore Cocktail Festival). Other members include representatives from spirits brands and cocktail bars.

Establishments that wish to join SCBA must fulfil criteria such as having a beverage programme with a strong emphasis on cocktails. Membership fees for the first two years are waived.

So far, more than 50 bars have come on board.

(Related: New Bars in Singapore: July 2020)

Ms Gan tells The Sunday Times: “Our findings show that nine in 10 bars saw an 80 per cent loss of revenue during the closures.”

Immediate concerns, she adds, include “pay reductions, unpaid staff and a dip in employee morale”.

Establishments with bar licences remain closed, while those with restaurant licences are allowed to open from Friday (June 19). SCBA is hoping to help everyone in the bar – from the cleaner to the hosts. It hopes to roll out the first tranche of support for them by the end of July.

Applications for the support fund for new bars – which aims to offer a month of rental relief to bars that are less than a year old – will also kick off in July. The third fund for industry recovery is set to be launched in August.

“During the circuit breaker and phase one, many bars had to pivot the business to delivery and may have lost staff, like marketing staff, to cut costs,” Ms Gan notes.

“Through our partnerships with designers, public relations companies and photographers, member bars can select from a list of service providers and SCBA will pay, capped at $1,000 worth of services,” she adds.

For the new bar and industry recovery funds, SCBA is partnering the SG Together Enhancing Enterprise Resilience scheme, where Enterprise Singapore will match $1 for every $2 raised for industry-led initiatives.

In the longer term, SCBA will also work to reinforce Singapore’s role as a leading cocktail destination and identify opportunities for industry growth.

Ms Gan acknowledges that there might be bar closures in the coming months.

“We are reopening in a different climate,” she says. “The market size has shrunk and consumers’ spending ability has changed – these factors will also determine the viability of businesses.”

Four of her five bars and eateries under the Jigger & Pony group, which reopened on Friday, had to pivot to deliveries in the past 10 weeks. Jigger & Pony at Amara Singapore remains closed, but will still do cocktail deliveries.

“Covid-19 really pushed us to think out of the box,” Ms Gan says. “While we did not get back to full revenue, we learnt that the business can still transform.”

For more information, visit SCBA’s Facebook page.

This article was originally published in The Straits Times 

(Related: The rise of Japanese cocktail culture in Singapore)