Jerold Khoo and Bai JiaWei, co-founders of Stay Gold Flamingo in Singapore, tell all about their rock and roll bar. By Holly Graham.
Jerold Khoo, formerly of Jigger & Pony, and Bai JiaWei, formerly of Employees Only Singapore both come from very different backgrounds but share a unique vision that culminates in Singapore’s newest next gen venue: Stay Gold Flamingo. The pair share with DRiNK how they align, rock out and make a home for those who need one.
How did you both end up collaborating?
Jerrold: We first crossed paths during a short stint working together many years ago, way before the craft cocktail scene in Singapore flourished. JiaWei’s work ethics impressed me, and we got along well in and outside of work, so we continued to keep in touch after going our separate ways. When I first thought of setting up my own bar, I knew I couldn’t do it alone. I wanted a partner who was driven and confident, yet fun behind the bar. I also wanted to complement Japanese techniques with the American style of bartending, and who else better than my old buddy JiaWei!
JiaWei: Although our careers took us to different places, we remained close friends and continued to show our support for each other. We shared challenges, sought advice, and worked on solutions together, and in the process, we continued to strengthen our rapport and partnership. When Jerrold brought up the idea of setting up a bar together, I immediately agreed.
You both come from great backgrounds – what have you learned from past roles and implement in your bar?
Jerrold: Countless! At the top of my head, establishing structure such as defining the bar’s core values, outlining career progression opportunities, and setting up appraisal systems, is very helpful for the team to find stability. Having worked at different places also allowed us to realise what kind of energy and vibes we wanted to evoke at Stay Gold Flamingo – we want to create a space where guests can let loose and have fun.
JiaWei: The importance of prioritising the areas that we need to focus on. When the space and team was still new, we worked on establishing discipline, honing skill sets, and building teamwork. We’re still less than a year into our operations, so we will slowly progress into refining other areas.
You both also come from different bartending styles – how do you blend these together and create your cocktail menu?
JiaWei: The cocktail menu was inspired by our bartending experiences and styles, bridging the creativity, dexterity and speed of American bartending with the elevated precision of the craft of Japanese cocktail making. As the American and Japanese palates are also pretty different, we compromise and find a middle ground to agree on, which makes our recipes unique yet versatile.
Jerrold: Other than undertaking a progressive approach to the bar’s ‘trinity’ cocktail menu – made up of a core spirit, modifier and enhancer – which echoes the backbone of a classic cocktail – we also introduced cheeky variations so that every bar guest can let their hair down and just enjoy their drinks.
Can you share more on what you mean by the bar being a ‘third place’ for the community?
Jerrold: At Stay Gold Flamingo, we offer two distinct experiences for free-spirited imbibers: Stay Gold, a modern classic bar with a rock and roll attitude where the thirsty can enjoy themselves over good music and solid cocktails. Flamingo is a funky neighbourhood coffee bar where guests can unwind with a midday drink in hand. I want people to think of Stay Gold Flamingo when they have nowhere else to go, when they are feeling down, or when they are feeling celebratory. This is an everyday bar inspired by art and artists – the unconventionality of director Wong Kar Wai and the magical realism of writer Haruki Murakami.
JiaWei: We wanted to create this exciting ‘third place’ for the community in celebration of life, libations, and music. Ultimately, we hope Stay Gold Flamingo can become a space where guests can come in to feel inspired and invigorated, and a home where they feel comfortable in their own skin and are not afraid to be themselves.
Where does the rock and roll inspiration come from?
Jerrold: The rock and roll attitude is a mindset to embrace chaos, beat the blues, and spread love. Growing up as a middle child, I felt pretty much stuck in the middle, but it also afforded me some freedom since there was a younger sibling to distract my parents. I was first exposed to punk rock like Blink 182 and Green Day which helped me to release some of the frustration that I was feeling, and when I dug deeper and first listened to AC/DC, it dawned on me that that was the kind of rawness I was searching for. I believe that there is a riot in everyone, and by amplifying this rock and roll attitude, I hope that people will leave Stay Gold Flamingo feeling a little bit better than when they came in.
JiaWei: To match the mood of the space as the day progresses, we curated two playlists each for Stay Gold and Flamingo. Mornings at Flamingo consists of indie leaning chill beats which transitions to a funky playlist in the afternoon. At Stay Gold, rock and blues play in the early evening as the bar slowly comes to life, and rock helps set the mood when everyone’s thrumming with energy later into the night.
What are some valuable lessons you’ve learned in opening your own venue or mistakes that you’ve made?
Jerrold: Learning to see that there are no bad decisions, only lessons learned. As an F&B owner, we must constantly hustle, constantly scrutinise the numbers, and constantly stay motivated to inspire our team. Sometimes, you also just have to trust your gut and be firm, but transparency amongst partners and team members is important. We learn to trust each other more when we provide context for the decisions we make.
Jia Wei: As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “If you can’t fly, run. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl”. No matter what we encounter in our journey, we must strive to keep moving forward, improve, and stay positive. It is also important to take care of our health, both physically and mentally. Only then, can we begin taking care of others.