‘Not possible to do business at all,’ owner says of closing Orchard Towers’ Baliba

Bryan Ong, Managing Director of Strumm’s Holding, poses in a 2019 photo at the Baliba Pub and Cafe. Photo: Baliba Pub and Cafe/Facebook
Bryan Ong, Managing Director of Strumm’s Holding, poses in a 2019 photo at the Baliba Pub and Cafe. Photo: Baliba Pub and Cafe/Facebook

Being branded a COVID-19 hotspot and high rental fees were big reasons why a Bali-themed bar at Orchard Towers decided to throw in the towel after 15 years.

The management behind the Baliba Pub and Cafe said today that’s why they decided not to renew the longrunning party spot’s three-year lease, which expired today, as well as uncertainty about whether the business would ever return to normal.

“Why the bar closed was because our lease has already ended and there was no sight of the government removing the hotspot on Orchard Towers,” Bryan Ong of lifestyle company Strumm’s Holding told Coconuts today. 

“COVID came and we are unable to operate and now that we can’t even open up the bar or even a club, it’s not possible to do business at all,” the 31-year-old managing director added.

Ong said it was not “wise” to continue operating the bar “without any end in sight” for the infamous entertainment building that used to be a nightlife hotspot with high footfall. The bar has been closed since March 2020, when the government put a stop to the party scene to contain the spread of COVID-19.

That’s a long time to continue paying a monthly rent of S$18,000 (US$13,564).

Orchard Towers is far from a HiSo hangout, and for 15 years, Baliba was a colorful and rowdy home for entertainment ranging from sexy burlesque shows to intense dance competitions. Past customers and even employees have said their goodbyes online.

“Thank you Baliba! Memories will always be remembered. Proud to be a part of Strumms family,” Juselle B. Bayron wrote.

Fortunately for the company, its Ipanema World Music Bar, another Orchard Towers institution of nearly two decades, was selected to pilot a program for nightclubs to resume operations safely. It’s still awaiting a reopening date; the plan was put on ice until further notice in January. 

Its sister outlet, an Irish pub located at the front of the building called The Drunken Poet, is not going anywhere, Ong said.

“We have a very supportive landlord and also we have a very strong community that has been supporting us so no [moving out] plans on The Drunken Poet. The Drunken Poet is here to stay,” Ong said.

Still, he remains hopeful and tells fans that the Baliba bar might stage a comeback.

“Maybe hopefully in the near future or when everything is over and Orchard Towers doesn’t have the hotspot and if the landlord allows it, we will come back and make Orchard Towers great again I guess,” he said.

Other stories you should check out:

Orchard Towers’ Baliba shuts its doors for good

Tan Tock Seng Hospital locks down second ward after vaccinated doctor and others test positive

Glass galore: Whimsical works by famed sculptor Dale Chihuly arrive at Gardens by the Bay (Photos)

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