Zouk chief Andrew Li talks challenges running one of Singapore’s beloved nightclubs

Nurul Azliah
Senior Lifestyle Reporter
The entrance of Zouk at Clarke Quay. (Photo: Zouk Singapore)

Taking over one of Singapore’s most beloved nightclubs has been challenging for Zouk’s chief executive Andrew Li. Some of these challenges involve “professionalising” a formerly family-run business, transforming Zouk into a global lifestyle brand and pushing its musical boundaries.

“Professionalising a family-run business and taking it global, whilst ensuring it’s financially sound in a sea of rising costs, is one of the biggest challenges I face,” said the 34-year-old during a recent interview with Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore. “You’d be surprised at how much artistes charge these days, especially with a boom in demand for electronic music acts in this region!”

Li took over the driving seat of the iconic nightclub from founder Lincoln Cheng some time after it was sold to Genting HK in 2015. The nightclub first opened at Jiak Kim Street in 1991 and subsequently moved to Clarke Quay in December 2016 under its new owner.

“There has been healthy growth since our shift from Jiak Kim to Clarke Quay. Continually bringing in A-List acts, such as Tiesto and Above & Beyond this year, have kept our clubbers coming back for more,” said Li, who is also the vice-president of Genting HK.

Zouk currently houses three different sections – the main room, Phuture and Capital. The nightclub also owns F&B brand Red Tail Bar, located within the Clarke Quay entertainment centre as well.

Previously, Zouk housed the main room, Phuture, Velvet Underground and WineBar. The nightclub was known for introducing house music to the local dance scene and placing Singapore on the map for being one of the best nightspots to go to.

Chief executive of Zouk and vice-president of Genting HK, Andrew Li. (Photo: Zouk Singapore)

“Staying true to the Zouk DNA, and pushing the bracket musically, is tough in an entertainment industry that’s notoriously cut-throat,” said Li. “We stay open-minded for our bookings and accept all genres and sounds, since music is about embracing the community and supporting talent equally.”

Li mentioned that he frequently chats with Cheng and had last spoken to him a few weeks ago. “He was sharing nuggets of advice regarding Zouk. One of which is to introduce a podium on the dance floor for Mambo Jambo nights,” said Li. “We take all his advice very seriously, and that is one thing which we hope to implement some time soon!”

Zouk is also well-known for organising its annual outdoor dance music festival ZoukOut since 2000. This year, festival-goers can look out for brand new experiences with influences from popular music festival Coachella.

Earlier in April, Li took his team to the event in the US, which hosted a slew of performances by acts such as singer Lady Gaga and electronic acts Clean Bandit, Porter Robinson and Madeon – all of whom Li had enjoyed. The food was a highlight for him, too.

“I thoroughly savoured every moment of the food village as they had a plethora of enticing food vendors and bespoke farm-to-table concepts, which perfectly accompanied an immense music lineup,” said Li, who enjoyed eating tater tots drizzled with melted raclette cheese at the festival. He hopes to bring a similar gastronomic experience to this year’s ZoukOut in Singapore.

“Aside from working with an industry veteran to curate a food lineup, we’ll be opening up doors earlier at a location adrenaline junkies will love. Think sunset sessions with tasty morsels, refreshing drinks and great beats from local DJs,” said Li. Last year’s ZoukOut featured foods by Keisuke Ramen and Keng Eng Kee Seafood, among others.

This year’s festival will also feature “the best of Asia” with a lineup combining both regional and international DJs as well as “live elements” to DJ performances. Besides growing Zouk and ZoukOut, Li has ambitious plans to lend the brand’s name to new lifestyle concepts.

In recent years, ZoukOut has taken place in Hong Kong, The Philippines and Japan. Zouk has also launched festivals on board cruise ships under the name “Zouk At Sea” with its upcoming event happening from 20 to 22 October on board the Genting Dream cruise bound for Hong Kong.

“We just came back from a trip to Genting Highlands not too long ago to explore possibilities in Malaysia. Also, when Zouk Las Vegas opens in the near future, we’ll be keeping our options open in the American market as well,” said Li.

ZoukOut 2017 will be happening on 8 and 9 December at Siloso Beach, Sentosa.

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