The streets of Singapore flash past like a music video behind Jerrold Khoo, co-founder and creative director of the street-posh, rock and roll-inspired Stay Gold Flamingo.
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Jerrold Khoo is striding towards his two-room cocktail bar concept, Stay Gold Flamingo, Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2023 #32, a little bit like a flamingo strutting through a lagoon. He’s slightly late for our video call, but insistent on kicking off on-time anyway by walking and talking.
“Actually, people nicknamed me ‘flamingo’ growing up – I mean I do look a bit like a flamingo,” he shrugs into the camera.
Stay Gold Flamingo Is Filled With Alter Egos
Flamingos, then, are not his exact alter-egos, but rather lookalikes. However, within Stay Gold Flamingo, there’s a myriad of other alter egos, creating a unique haven for individuals seeking an escape from the daily grind.
The space encompasses two distinct elements, artfully crafted by Jerrold. On one hand, Stay Gold is a rebellious cocktail bar exuding a rock and roll spirit, while in front, Flamingo captivates with its funky café ambiance.
Even the menu presents its offerings as alter egos, showcasing the versatility of key ingredients. “Like our plum alter ego,” Jerrold points out, “which manifests as the refreshing highball-style ‘A Fizzy Twiggy’ or the stronger, more complex ‘Twiggy By The Sea,’ both showcasing the delightful essence of plums.”
Jerrold and JiaWei The Co-Founders Of Stay Gold Flamingo
Jerrold and co-founder Bai JiaWei are kind of alter egos too. Jerrold, with his Japanese-style bartending background, and Bai JiaWei, an American-style bartender. “It’s crazy because with his American recipes and my Japanese recipes, together, we’d make a pretty dope Stay Gold Flamingo recipe!” he explains.
They first met when they worked in the same pub 12 years ago. “JiaWei was new to the industry, but I could see his hunger to learn straight away,” Jerrold remembers. Jerrold had been working in bars for a few years already and was happy to pass on some of the things he’d learnt.
Fast forward to January 2020, and JiaWei, “who has a great attitude towards getting things done, and is an amazing host and bartender,” made an obvious partner for Stay Gold Flamingo.
After the idea struck him, Jerrold went to see JiaWei at Employees Only Singapore, where he was working. He remembers sharing the concept for Stay Gold Flamingo over a highball, and the idea made more and more sense, the drunker JiaWei got him.
Stay Gold Flamingo: One Bar, Two Identities
Flamingo would be bright and welcoming – a place office workers could take a morning Zoom call over a coffee, or one they’d sneak off to early for a post-work cocktail and a catch-up.
“We do get those two different kinds of people, but occasionally the same white collar crowd who came in the morning for a business meeting would be back at night to unwind over wine.”
Stay Gold, through the curtain, would be darker and more mysterious with conspiratorial corners, neon lights and reflective surfaces – somewhere to disappear into till well after dark. It feels like the kind of hidden entrance J.K Rowling or C.S Lewis would have dreamed up.
“I’m definitely a Harry Potter fan,” Jerrold admits. “Sometimes I dream of teleporting myself with the flick of a wand and entering the other dimension through a brick wall as if I am the special breed!” he adds, warming to the idea. “I guess it stems from the desire to feel special.”
Lost In Music
In his teenage years, he got lost in music, he confesses, and he lost his innocence in the process: “when teen angst found an avenue of release through art and rock and roll music.”
“So, maybe I’m trying to give people theirs back through magical experiences to compensate,” he muses.
He’s grown up a lot too, he says, and has had time to reflect even though the rock and roll spirit hasn’t diminished completely. “The younger me would have wanted to be Sebastian Bach, the frontman of Skid Row: young, brash and outta control!” he decides. “But today I would say Mick Mars from Motley Crue, more discreet and under control.”
A Bit Of Street Attitude To The Poshness And A Bit Of Poshness With The Street Attitude
Jerrold and JiaWei endearingly call their guests, and even the team, ‘flamingos.’ And that idea of being street-posh guides everything they do. Jerrold says, “There’s always a bit of street attitude to our poshness and a bit of poshness with our street attitude.” It’s something like high-fashion meets street culture collaborations like Louis Vuitton’s collaboration with Supreme or Gucci with Gucci Ghost.
The Stay Gold Flamingo team wear a shirt and tie, with sneakers, and not, for example, a T-shirt and apron, which would be street.
They’ll greet an old friend informally – “probably shouting a vulgarity at them” – and a CEO with a “Hello, Sir.”
It’s something that high–end hotel bars can’t do. “The idea is something we took from Salmon Guru (the Madrid institution famous for its loud drinks, crazy garnishes, dragon-shaped vessels),” Jerrold continues, “to provide five-star service with a casual delivery.”
“Just for the night, we want people to stay gold”
Which leads neatly to the name, Stay Gold Flamingo. It comes from a Robert Frost poem, ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay,’ which explores the ephemeral nature of existence.
“We know nothing gold can stay that way forever. But, just for the night, we want people to stay gold – to shine and be the best versions of themselves. All flowers bloom and wither, so we have to cherish these fleeting moments we have together,” Jerrold smiles about the whimsical inspiration. “And I’m nostalgic for the past too,” he accepts. “Maybe LA in the ‘80s because of its rock scene or even the Belle Epoque or the roaring ‘20s.”
Taste Is Key
The Stay Gold Flamingo playlists are unashamedly nostalgic too.
“When it comes to selecting a playlist, taste is key,” Jerrold elaborates.
“At Stay Gold, we deliberately curated an assortment of lesser-known and non-mainstream tracks. The mix spans different genres. There’s some rock, hip hop, R&B, and even some funk and house. On the other hand, Flamingo specializes in disco-funk, with a sprinkling of crossover songs. Guests get to delve into the glorious realm of musical discovery when they pay us a visit!”
The Patron Saints Of Stay Gold Flamingo
With all its street-posh, savvily soundtracked attitude, you suspect the gods of rock and roll are smiling down on Stay Gold Flamingo, Jerrold and BaiWei, and all their flamingos.
“I’d like to imagine Freddie Mercury as the patron saint of Flamingo – all that flamboyance he possessed. And, for Stay Gold, its patron saint would be G-Dragon – admittedly he’s a K-Pop star not a rock star. But he’s a pretty boy with bad boy vibes. He’s street and he’s posh! But I guess he won’t stay that way forever…”
Jerrold murmurs, lost in thoughts of the ephemeral nature of existence again.