First published on 19 Jan 2009. Updated on 4 Jul 2011.
A: All depends on how much you’re willing to spend. Money can’t buy you love, but it can pay for the extra time you’ll need to get down and dirty in Joo Chiat. This year, the historic neighbourhood is about to get a whole lot cleaner – in 2009, all its hotels will be banned from charging hourly room rates. Now, amorous couples and lonely gentlemen will be forced to fork out for a whole day of lovin’.
Why the hate? Well, a community-watch group has been trying to give the heritage area a facelift, and it seems to be working. Last year The New Paper reported a drop in the number of massage parlours, from 30 in 2005 to four by the end of 2008. This conservation district, lined with quaint shophouses, Peranakan restaurants and zhi-char joints (we especially love Joo Heng, even though it’s gone all fancy with air-conditioning now), has a surprisingly vibrant nightlife.
Among the affected love nests are multiple outlets of the ubiquitous Hotel 81 chain: Sakura, Tristar, Joo Chiat, Opera and Classic. Hotel 81 charges $20 for two hours and extensions for $10 an hour, with a deposit of $20. That’s still a hefty $40+ to cough up for a frisky roll in the hay…but no longer.
Nonetheless, there are other things for night owls and working girls to worry about besides the ban on hourly rates. Concerned residents from Joo Chiat Road Area Community Watch Group have been out and about, making observations about the neighbourhood at night in order to ‘crack down on sleaze in the area’. Antisocial behaviour like illegal parking on double yellow lines, loud music from pubs and obstructive herds of cigarette smokers are under the microscope.
The New Paper reports that the group can’t actually do much as a grassroots organisation, but they can file reports with relevant government agencies (the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the Hotel Licensing Board) and hope for the best.
Here’s the ‘good’ news: hotels in Singapore’s most famous red-light district, Geylang, will operate as usual – they had us worried. Maybe the folks over there have come to terms with what really makes this rockin’ world go round.
Does Joo Chiat need saving?