Disc jockey (DJ) Quek Pin Chen used to have live gigs at high-profile clubs such as Marquee Nightclub, Cherry Discotheque and Yang almost weekly since 2017. The 25-year-old was having the time of his life and living his dream – until Covid-19 brought his work to an abrupt halt.
“It was a massive blow for me and everyone in the nightlife scene when the government announced the closure of all venues back in March,” says DJ Pin. “Prior to Covid-19, my only source of income was coming from gigs and events.”
During Singapore’s circuit breaker, many non-essential workplace premises had to close down, and all nightclubs and bars were forced to cease operations.
“Many of us predicted that [the nightlife industry] would be the first industry to close if things blew up. However, it was still tough when it happened as everyone lost their rice bowl overnight and there was no clear sight as to when [the industry] might be able to open up.”
The prolonged closure has forced some nightclubs to throw in the towel. WAN Singapore is one such casualty.
“It was bad when it closed down, everyone lost their jobs overnight,” says TH, a club promoter at WAN who wishes to remain anonymous. “Being a club promoter was a way for me to make some extra pocket money … but for the bartenders and staff, their main source of income disappeared.”
Many were looking forward to Singapore’s transition into Phase 3 at the end of last year, as a number of nightclubs and karaokes were meant to re-open with safe distancing measures under a pilot programme. But the reopening has been postponed again when there were new Covid-19 cases in the community.
“I am glad [the nightclub] can’t reopen first as it will be a potential breeding ground for infections,” said Zelia Cheong, a Dance Captain at Marquee Nightclub. “However, as someone employed in the nightlife scene, I’m worried about the business … The word ‘postponement’ inevitably means losses, and money is needed to put bread on the table,” she adds.
Despite the disappointment over the delay of the pilot programme, DJ Pin remains hopeful that the nightlife scene will see a turnaround.
In the meantime, he shares: “I’ve been dabbling in music production, something which I’ve been neglecting for the longest time because I was putting all my focus on the technical and creative side of DJ-ing.”
“On top of that, I took up a few courses like digital marketing and video editing as I felt these are skills that will come in handy if I am looking to stay in the creative or entertainment industry in the long run,” he adds.
“There are a lot of uncertainties concerning the entertainment industry and the nightlife scene as we know it. I am just trying to stay as sharp and ready as I possibly can until the government gives us the green light to resume operations.”