Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Southeast Asia's New Nightlife Capital -- Jakarta?

JAKARTA, Dec 5 (Reuters Life!) - The chaotic capital of the 
world's most populous Muslim nation is rarely associated with 
glitzy nightlife, but new venues in Indonesia's Jakarta may soon 
see it challenging more cosmopolitan centres in the region.

The city of about 10 million, or many more if thousands of 
unregistered poor flocking in from rural provinces are included, 
has just become the first city in Southeast Asia to host a 
Buddha Bar, the hip Paris-based franchise of restaurant/lounges.

The region's biggest economy has enjoyed a period of sustained 
growth in the last few years and better stability after the 
financial crisis and political turmoil of the late 1990s.

"Jakarta is a growing city in a growing country. So we think the 
market is now sufficient," said Jean Baptiste Giradet, marketing 
manager of Buddha Bar, which is housed in a restored Dutch-era 
mansion and former immigration building in the leafy Menteng 
area of the city.

The Indonesian capital, usually more associated with loud hotel 
bars, thumping nightclubs or karaoke joints, joins the likes of 
London, New York and Dubai in hosting a Buddha Bar.

While neighbours such as Thailand have suffered a deepening 
political crisis in the last three years, Indonesia's young 
democracy has surprised many by its resilience, and the economy 
has also benefited from a period of booming commodity prices.

New wine bars and bistros such as Cork & Screw, Loewy and 
Birdcage have also sprung up to serve a growing middle class and 
expatriates. Wine appreciation classes are also popular.

Harvey Nichols, the luxury U.K.-based retailer, opened its debut 
store in the Indonesian capital in October with a floor housing 
a trendy restaurant, bar and wine shop.


In a country where around half the 226 million people live on 
less than $2 a day, most of these places are clearly out of 
reach for the majority of Indonesians.

But Giradet said Buddha Bar's target market was the local elite 
and expatriates, and it also wants to attract business 
travellers from places such as Singapore who might otherwise 
just leave "because they think there is nothing to do in 

The bar, which has a dining room with a capacity of up to 200, 
overlooked by a giant gold Buddha, has also not changed its 
targets because of the global financial crisis.

"We have reasonable targets. We know that perhaps we will have 
less business travellers," Giradet said, adding the bar was 
ordering slightly less of the most expensive vintages that cost 
more than 10 million rupiah ($816) a bottle.

The menu will also bow to local tastes by including the odd 
Indonesian favourite such as nasi goreng, a fried rice dish.