Man at His Best

A Brief, Sobering, Memory Of Defunct Bars In Singapore

Brick and mortar might not last very long in Singapore, but people and their ideas have a habit of sticking around.

BY Kurt Ganapathy | Jan 4, 2017 | Food & Drink

“December 2015 marks 12 years since Oosters first opened its doors way back in 2003.

Uh-oh.

“Twelve years is a very long time in F&B and much has changed.”

Oh boy.

“Our 12th anniversary means that it’s time to renew our three-year lease, but this time, we’re sad to say that we’ve decided not to renew, and instead, we’re going to bow out gracefully.”

Not again.

It’s a familiar story, but these statements hit hard when they come from places that you thought would be around forever. In truth, I hadn’t been to Oosters in ages, but for many of us, it was where our affair with good beer began.

It’s funny to think about it now, but just a decade ago, your beer options at most bars were either Tiger or “Get off my property”. Oosters helped to change all that. The humble brasserie introduced us to names that we’d only dreamt of previously—Orval, Trappistes Rochefort, Chimay, Leffe, Pauwel Kwak—served in proper glassware. I returned for one last round in their final week of operations, and began to reminisce about the other establishments I’d once frequented that have since faded into history.

There was The Cavern, a Beatles-themed pub in Boat Quay that served well as a place for drinks on a first date—until your inhibitions disappeared and you agreed that Anchors by the riverside was a much better option. There was O Bar, the club that taught me the value of ignoring bouncers with delusions of grandeur for the sake of SGD16 jugs of house spirits. And then there was 57 Chevy in Katong, my first local. It’s been two years since it closed, but there’s always something special about your first that keeps her alive in your mind.

When I first walked through the doors at Chevy in early 2005, I was 18 and clueless about life. My parents bought a share in the new business and that led to my first job—botching B52s, pouring beers that were mostly foam, drinking my mistakes, breaking glasses dramatically and laughing o„ any customer who ordered a complicated cocktail that we couldn’t make. By the end of my time there, I could set waterfalls alight, singeing practically zero eyebrows in the process.

Over the years, countless people spent long hours with me there—friends, family and every girl who seemed like a potential future ex-wife. It was a place where I met people for the first time, and where I met them for the last time. Months would pass, but the same faces would be there whenever I returned, ready to ask me the same questions they’d ask every time we met.

Every story worth telling must have an ending; all you can do is live it and embrace it while it’s still being told. And when the end appears on the horizon, the only thing that matters is being able to look back on the journey and say, “Yeah, that was one heck of a ride.”


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