Valentine’s Day at bars can get a little fun and flirty in Singapore. For No Sleep Club, located on Keong Saik Road, every day seems like Valentine’s Day.
One of the busy street’s more discrete but established watering holes, No Sleep Club came in 15th on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2022 list and has become a popular date spot, especially for those meeting for the first time after matching on dating apps.
No Sleep Club’s owner, Juan “Jun” Yijun, told us she has seen more than her fair share of “awkward first dates”. But the 39-year-old doesn’t know why the bar attracts so many couples, considering that they have been an anti-Valentine’s Day establishment for years.
One particular year, the bar did a “dirty” V-Day where all the food served was made purposely messy to consume, not typically what you’d choose for a first date. Another year, they only accepted bookings in odd numbers for singles, or groups in threes and fives.
“We are more for the people without dates,” Jun said.
Still, it’s “flattering.” Maybe it’s the bar’s cozy living room-like interior, with a touch of romantic conveyed by the candles on the bar counter, that has won over customers’ hearts.
Drunk and confused
Jun has been working the bars for over 20 years now which means she has seen a lot of dates.
The pandemic was an era of confusing first dates for some at her bar. When masks were required indoors, Jun witnessed several couples hitting it off, only to realize later on that they had sat down with the wrong person.
“I guess obviously he gets a text and the girl was sitting somewhere else and he’s sitting with some other girl,” she said.
This happened months after the bar’s opening, which happened just before the catastrophic pandemic, the timing of which Jun described as a “nightmare.”
Another time, one woman’s night wasn’t going as expected so she ended up asking Jun’s bartender for his number instead when her date left for the toilet.
Sometimes Jun and her staff even have to wait for couples to finish fighting outside the bar to prepare and serve their drinks at the optimal temperature.
“You actually are there as an onlooker for the entire date or fight. Sometimes the girl leaves and then the guy sits there alone for a long time and when he asks for the bill, you realize the girl’s not coming back,” she said.
There was also a regular who would come in with a different woman every time. Jun made a mistake once by shouting, “Eh you come back already!” to quickly switch to “Ah first time here sir?”
The customers’ business is not theirs to meddle in.
“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, that’s our policy,” she joked.
How Singapore dates
The Singapore style of dating can be pretty forceful, according to Jun’s observations at her bar. One of her pet peeves is when men order for women. She has seen it too many times for her to ignore the request and ask what the woman would like to have instead.
Some couples also tend to have an ego battle during dates, trying to one-up each other with something they think they are knowledgeable about instead of finding out more about the person and staying in the moment for the conversation.
One time, a man was relentlessly going on and on about how much he knew about wine and whiskey when his date, a No Sleep Club regular, was actually a connoisseur.
Jun’s advice? “The less I know, the less I should say,” she said, adding that it’s okay to have a certain air of mystery to yourself and not feel forced to fill every moment of silence.
In other words, lose the self-consciousness before you start doing things to overcompensate. Awkward silences will follow and it burdens the bar crew to step in to make things more comfortable, Jun said.
More bad behavior
You’d think that Jun would be immune to all the gnarly that have happened including her time in the opening team at the 1880 Members Club and eight years at the now defunct Operation Dagger, but that was just the start.
An influential blogger once came into her bar and got pretty wasted enough to shove her whole hand into a pot of sauce that was left to cool in the kitchen. She did that a couple of times on the way to the toilet and also ate a whole plate of potatoes next to it. The sauce was thrown out but the act still baffles Jun.
“I don’t know. I think some people when they go out, they don’t see an establishment that is run by real people. They just think they go out and they are going to do this and everything is like this,” she said. Entitled, is what she’s trying to say.
Recently, a group of grown men came in and caused havoc at the bar. One of them drank straight from a communal jug of water and helped themselves to a bottle of cognac as part of a dare.
“You can see that his friends are daring him and these are not young people. They thought it was funny and they obviously can afford it,” she said.
He never admitted but Jun let it slide.
Sometimes even, male customers get offended when Jun serves them drinks in pink or in a stem glass they consider a threat to their manhood.
“As though they drink already will become a woman,” Jun said. “Or when he asks for a more manly glass. You want a glass with hair or what?”
Big NO-NOs at bars
Whether you’re a regular at bars or not, here’s what you definitely shouldn’t do at No Sleep Club.
- Don’t ask for bespoke cocktails
Why come in when you’re not going to look at the menu? Some weirdos have prided themselves on ordering without looking at what’s being offered.
Bespoke cocktails are not the better option, Jun said. Their S$25 cocktails are what Jun and her team have “slaved and conceptualized.”
“You don’t want me to make something on the spot for you or something that I’ve never made before you know,” Jun said.
Each drink at No Sleep Club is formulated with a myriad of flavor profiles being infused together.
There’s always something being fermented. Ingredients they forgot they had or fruits that got sent wrongly end up in jugs of vinegar or liquor displayed and labeled on their fermentation shelves.
These gnarly concoctions then sometimes end up in their drinks.
One example is their Hay & Apples, a highball that is made by fermenting apples and hay that helps attract the right bacteria. It was a tip she picked up from Taiwanese chef André Chiang.
- Don’t request for other bars’ cocktails
Some customers even had the audacity to request for a particular cocktail they had previously from another bar.
“It’s like going to KFC and you ask for McDonald’s,” Jun said.
- Don’t ask to “make it stronger” and expect to not pay
Alcohol costs money, and some people don’t seem to realize that, said Jun.
So that “make it stronger” request will have to cost you that extra shot. Surprise, surprise.
“It’s like going to McDonald’s and asking for upsize, you have to pay,” she said.
- Don’t ask to be surprised
But the worst of all, do not, DO NOT, ask bartenders to “surprise” you.
“I can REALLY SURPRISE you, you know? I have a full kitchen, are you sure? Do you really want that chicken fat in your drink?” she said, referring to her twist on a Long Island iced tea that was inspired by the pairing of fried chicken with coke.
With no major V-Day plans at No Sleep Club for now, you can still look forward to the bar’s opening of its second-floor space in March reserved for private events.
The space will invite creatives from different industries like an interior designer or a ceramics artist who will collaborate with the bar to come up with a tasting menu.
Bad dates or no dates, one thing’s for sure, No Sleep Club will welcome you with open arms – as long as you don’t start bar fights and um, steal food from the kitchen. Hot tip: the Bloody Mary is a Coconuts favorite.
No Sleep Club
20 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089127
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