[UPDATE 4 Jan 2019, 8:30am]
Blu Jaz Cafe will no longer be allowed to hold live performances from 1 Feb 2019, as its appeal against the cancellation of its public entertainment licence has been rejected, reported Channel NewsAsia on Thursday (Jan 3).
While the Bali Lane eatery will still be allowed to operate as a cafe, it will not be able to provide any form of public entertainment, such as their popular open mic nights.
Police said the independent Public Entertainment Appeal Board (PEAB) rejected the appeal on Dec 31, 2018.
According to Blu Jaz Cafe’s website, live performances are still scheduled on its event calendar past January. The management has not updated its social media pages responding to news of the rejection.
Popular entertainment venue Blu Jaz Cafe has been informed by the police that its Public Entertainment Licence is being cancelled.
While the cafe can continue to operate without the licence, it can no longer hold live performances from 22 October.
Speaking to The New Paper, founder and director Ms Aileen Tan said they were first informed of the license cancellation on 31 August. A subsequent appeal was rejected on 8 October, due to the cafe’s “poor track record of compliance” with licensing conditions.
“They didn’t give a definite cancellation date then, and we didn’t want to alarm anyone by telling them because we were still appealing against the cancellation,” said Ms Tan to The New Paper.
In a Facebook event page created on Sunday (Oct 14), Blu Jaz Cafe stated that they intend to appeal a second time.
The owners also stated two offences that prompted the police’s decision to cancel their licence: a “noise issue” caused by “failure to ensure windows and doors remained closed” in July 2016 and November 2017, and two offences of “overcrowding by over 20% above the capacity” in April and May 2018.
Blu Jaz Cafe urged their supporters to sign an online petition and submit “personal letters of reference in support of Blu Jaz”. Blu Jaz Cafe “will submit all supporting documents together with our written appeal to the Appeal Board” by 18 October.
However, Blu Jaz Cafe also noted on the page that a successful appeal to the Appeal Board will only postpone the effective date of the cancellation.
Without the public entertainment licence, Blu Jaz Cafe cannot be involved in “any reproduction or transmission of recorded music by any means other than telephony or radio telephony, of any music or song; or any variety act, performance of music, singing or dancing… including a place where dancing by customers is permitted”.
As of 11 April 2018, the Singapore Police Force website states that venues face “a penalty of $20,000 for the offence of providing public entertainment without a licence or while suspended”.
Ms Tan said the three-storey venue had exceeded the 24 demerit points allowed in two years due to overcrowding issues.
The 1,600 sq ft area on the first storey was given a capacity of only 43 pax, including its staff of about 20 people on weekends.
“With the band taking up another five to eight people, overcrowding becomes very difficult to manage,” she said.
Since setting up shop at 11 Bali Lane in 2006, Blu Jaz Cafe has been a popular venue for live entertainment and performances, including poetry slams and movie screenings.
The cafe sits on the outskirts of the Kampong Glam neighbourhood along Ophir Road, opposite the integrated development DUO, which includes a 660-unit residential tower, the 340-room Andaz Hotel, a 39-storey commercial tower, and a 56,000 sq ft retail space.
URA first outlined the Ophir-Rochor Corridor as a growth area in its 2008 Master Plan.
“Developments in the precinct will be a mix of high-rise towers and low-rise, finer-grained buildings to create a street-based urban form that will contribute to the city skyline and, at the same time, extend the street-based experience of the Kampong Glam and Beach Road conservation areas,” said URA on its website.
As of Monday (Oct 15), Blu Jaz Cafe has kept a list of upcoming events up on its website, including ticketed shows and gigs past 22 October.
Ms Tan said she has informed all the scheduled performers of the notice.
“Many of them were very angry, more angry than me, because they said this is one of the last few locations to have such performances,” she said.
Singapore-based Japanese jazz pianist and director of arts startup We Love Jazz SG Aya Sekine spoke out against the cancellation in a Facebook post, urging jazz fans in Singapore to sign the petition.
“No blu jaz live music entertainment will damage a lot of things. It will affect MANY of us and our lives as musicians and artists here in Singapore,” she wrote.
On the r/Singapore subreddit, user cyhlalala started a thread titled “For the first time, I feel so hopeless as an artist in Singapore” on Sunday evening (14 Oct), commenting: “This week/month is a deeply saddening one for the arts/jazz community of Singapore.”
“It’s just been announced that Blu Jaz Cafe, one of the last standing venues for jazz, poetry slam, stand-up and amateur music community development will be having their Public Entertainment License taken away. This means no more live music, no more live performances etc. It will essentially become just any other bar.”
“This is following a series of many other such jazz bars closing down within close proximity of each other. 2 years ago, an amateur or professional musician who wanted to practice at a jam session could do so at B28, Artistry Cafe, Sing Jazz Club and Blu Jaz. Plenty of choices. That slowly reduced to only Blu Jaz. Every jam session at those other venues basically had to relocated to Blu Jaz. As a musician delving into jazz, jam sessions were a crucial part of the week for me to not only improve my craft, but also to engage with other jazz enthusiasts.”
Artistry Cafe, also located at Kampong Glam, bowed out on 25 March this year. Sing Jazz Club shuttered in 2017, three years after Sultan Jazz Club left the same plot at Jalan Sultan.
“Performing here often costs the performer more than whatever each individual audience is spending. Blu Jaz has been a great venue for performance and they offer opportunities such as ‘performers can book the private floors for free as long as the audiences buy XXX amount in drinks, they can choose to charge entry fees as well to pay Blu Jaz afterwards if the drinks sales don’t meet the number’.”
“The importance of such casual venues cannot be overstated… As an artist, no matter where in the world you are, it will feel like an uphill battle. In Singapore, however, it feels more like trying to walk up a vertical wall.”
Header image: STB Tourism Information & Services Hub (TIH)