Tun­ing into karaoke as clubs clean up act

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

es­tab­lish­ments, with their dodgy man­agers and du­bi­ous cus­tomers who fre­quented the older karaoke lounges in Viet­nam’s cap­i­tal city of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City,” said Thanh, who works at X-Men Club in Hanoi.

Karaoke may con­jure up al­co­hol-tinged im­ages of dimly-lit rooms with poor acous­tics, with shady rep­u­ta­tions as broth­els and drug dens. “In some ‘hug­ging’ karaoke bars, cus­tomers can hug, touch, kiss or even have sex with fe­male staff, but such ac­tiv­i­ties are il­le­gal, and these es­tab­lish­ments are be­com­ing fewer and fewer due to po­lice raids,” said Pham Van Long, man­ager of VIP karaoke lounge in Ho Chi Minh City.

The au­dio equip­ment, in­clud­ing am­pli­fiers, mi­cro­phones, sound sys­tems and LED or LCD wide screen TVs, has dra­mat­i­cally im­proved in qual­ity and even the worst singer can hide be­hind some su­per-en­hanced re­verb.

Av­er­age prices vary from 100,000-200,000 Viet­namese dong ($4.50-$9) an hour, ex­clu­sive of drinks, to up to 10 times more for up­mar­ket op­tions. Lux­u­ri­ous venues have so­phis­ti­cated decor, in­clud­ing rooms decked out like a palace, or en­tire dance floors and flash­ing lights, bear­ing more re­sem­blance to a disco.

How­ever, some es­tab­lish­ments have de­vel­oped a repu- tation for pros­ti­tu­tion and drug use, with women, espe­cially from ru­ral ar­eas, drawn by the monthly salaries of 15-30 mil­lion Viet­namese dong.

“I know that some young girls, espe­cially those from Ho Chi Minh City’s coun­try­side or neigh­bor­ing prov­inces have been lured by fraud­u­lent ad­ver­tise­ments. They have been tricked into work­ing for ‘hug­ging’ karaoke bars, or even worse, for broth­els,” said Long.

The scan­dals have led to in­creased govern­ment sur­veil­lance of karaoke busi­ness prac­tices. Now, ev­ery room must have an area of at least 20 square me­ters, trans­par­ent glass win­dows, and only one waiter or wait­ress aged over 18 serv­ing the guests, with none of the rooms be­ing locked.

In April 2017, the Viet­namese Min­istry of Health pro­posed a ban on sell­ing al­co­holic drinks, in­clud­ing spirit, wine and beer, in karaoke venues.

“If the ban is placed, our busi­ness will be af­fected, but we al­ways strictly obey the law. More and more peo­ple are en­joy­ing clean karaoke, not dirty karaoke,” said Le Van Thang, owner of Chieu Tim (Vi­o­let Af­ter­noon) karaoke bar in Hanoi’s Thanh Xuan Dis­trict.

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