Sunday, August 26, 2012

Variety is quay


Straits Times: Sun, Aug 26

The three quays by the Singapore River - Clarke, Robertson and Boat - are lively in their own ways but some think more can be done to rejuvenate these drinking and dining enclaves.

A group of 20 who have businesses in the three areas have set up Singapore River One to look at how they can make improvements, whether it is eradicating touting at Boat Quay or drawing people to Clarke Quay at lunch time.

The group's executive director of the redevelopment, Mr Tyrone Tabing, was executive director of the business improvement group Chicago Loop Alliance, where he spearheaded dynamic events, cultural celebrations and public art installations in the area.

He said that in terms of the food and beverage mix, the area that requires most consolidation is the Boat Quay belt of pubs, seafood and Indian restaurants.

"We need a greater and more even distribution of tenants so that other operators will want to enter the area as well," he added.

"The touting situation has improved, but we will continue to make sure that it is clear."

In the coming months, Singapore River One will introduce "hospitality ambassadors" to recommend and direct diners to the various restaurants.

He said: "For example, if they want Mexican cuisine, the ambassadors can direct them to the restaurants and give advice to tourists as well. This should stop the touts from going overboard."

Businesses welcome the move by the group to spruce up life by the river and to fix some problems.

Mr Paul Lawlass, director and an owner of Smiths Authentic British Fish And Chips, noted that many patrons stick to their favourite eateries in the area.

He said: "For diners, it's like walking the gauntlet if they venture further up the quay because of the touting that still occurs occasionally.

"So you need a variety of new and interesting concepts to entice diners to walk up the river to the other outlets. It's not easy, but once things are sorted out, the area will be a nice oasis like Clarke Quay."

He said the owners chose to open in the area last October to cater to the office crowd in the neighbouring Central Business District. Business is comparable to that in the chain's two other outlets, at Tanjong Katong Road and Balmoral Plaza, but could be better, he added.

Over at Clarke Quay, landlord CapitaLand is pumping $15.6 million into adding a new frontage along River Valley Road, and will introduce new dining and entertainment concepts.

Mr Wilson Tan, director of CapitaLand Retail Management, chairs Singapore River One's board of directors.

Mr Tabing said this could help food and beverage players.

"If restaurants would like a space in Clarke Quay but there are no vacancies, we can help to find an opening in the other two quays."

Of the three quays, restaurant owners that SundayLife! spoke to agree that Clarke Quay is the one that has the best image.

Mr Loh Zhi Qin, senior marketing executive of LifeBrandz, says: "Clarke Quay is more organised and well-managed than Boat Quay. However, Singapore River One needs to think of ways to increase the ease of travelling among the three quays. We should not be relying on the river taxis alone."

River taxis rides, which cost $3 a trip, will be launched in January next year.

LifeBrandz owns various concepts at Clarke Quay, including bar and fast-food restaurant Rebel'Hood, which opened in December last year, and nightspots Zirca and Aquanova.

Mr Sean Goh, senior marketing manager for Mad For Garlic which opened at Clarke Quay last month, said: "Hopefully Singapore River One can come up with ideas in making Clarke Quay more interesting in terms of recreation.

"Also, there is room for improving business, especially from Mondays to Thursdays."

The Korean restaurant, whose first outlet in Suntec City is closed because of the mall's renovation, plans to open another outlet in the Orchard Road area.

Even the most peaceful of the three quays, Robertson Quay, has problems on weekends with the rowdy clubbing crowd.

Youths hang out in the area, creating a ruckus and getting drunk on alcohol they buy from convenience stores before hitting the clubs.

Mr Tabing, who also lives in the area of 10,000 residents, said: "We will work with the auxiliary police to handle the situation which has plagued residents in the area for a long time."

He said of the three quays: "With the weather here, air-conditioning also plays a role in attracting diners to the area.

"People may prefer Orchard Road because you go from mall to mall in air-conditioned comfort. But the waterfront experience here is strong and we want to capitalise on that."

According to data from the Singapore Tourism Board, only 18 per cent of tourists visited the Singapore River in 2009, compared to the 49 per cent that went to Orchard Road.

While IT consultant Michael Loke, 32, feels that certain issues such as the touting need to be sorted out, he hopes each quay will retains its own character.

He said: "If there is too much tweaking of the areas, they will end up like our cookie-cutter malls. I like the charming vibe of Robertson Quay and the buzz of Clarke Quay and Boat Quay.

"But of course, more food options is always good for us."

  

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Sherry Tang | 9844 4400 | R020241C
Senior Sales Director
Email: marshe_inc@yahoo.com.sg
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