THE DARK SIDE OF HONG KONG NIGHT LIFE 1

A few nights ago, I decided to be a lounge lizard and check out three five-star hotel lounges in Hong Kong just to see what draws many of us to them.

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In a nutshell, it has to do with convenience. And those that become regular meeting places have to do with service and where you feel the most comfortable.

The ‘live’ music? It’s shlock and only a few floors up from being elevator music made bearable by how much alcohol is inside you and the company around you.

My first port of call was the Lobster Bar at the Island Shangrila- and the only reason for going there was having a hotelier mentioning that the new singer performing was attracting a big audience. And she is. Why? No idea.

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The place was packed with a few tourists and a number of cash rich locals who wouldn’t be caught dead at, let’s say, The Brew House or any bar in Lan Kwai Fong or Soho. These would be beneath them.

As for the resident singer, she’s from somewhere in Canada, and backed by a local old school trio, warbled the usual standards.

When she tore into- well, “tore” is not exactly the right word-something more current, it reminded me of one of those cornball performers on a cruise ship. But, like on cruise ships, corn sells in these hotel lounges and as long as there is an opportunity for everyone to clap along like trained chimpanzees or join in some vocal response by shouting out, “HEY HO” on cue, everyone’s happy and those managing the Lobster Bar must be very happy as it even has a guest mixologist flown in from Spain- or maybe it’s Italy- and it all adds to the shlock and awe mood of the place. I couldn’t handle it and left to see the newly refurbished Champagne Bar at the Grand Hyatt.

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The place smells new, but the combination of the type of pedestrian resident singer these venues keep on keeping on booking, and the sparse number of dead people sitting around the bar, nearly had me falling sleep into my wine glass. I had to escape and rushed to the Blue Bar at the Four Seasons.

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Forget the turgid ‘live’ music. What works is the staff, the always interesting “floor shows” happening around the bar- the good, the bad and the ugly having meetings and making deals, some celebrity watching, working girls scanning the surroundings for new business- and simply feeling comfortable and being made to feel special.

Sure, one can say, if the wheel ain’t broke why fix it, but those running these lounges might think playing it safe is the way forward- but as marketers, they are totally out of sync with the wants and needs of today’s consumers- and “managing by remote” is painless and easy. Why try to be different when one can drink from that half-empty glass and maintain that corporate status quo of pretending to be busy doing nothing?

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Hotel guests is a captive market that will always be there, but one can’t help but think that in this day and age of social media and the need to constantly embrace change, what more these meeting places that haven’t changed their management modus operandi in over three decades can be with some creative marketing.