Mini karaoke rooms rise above closed larger venues

By Quynh Nguyen   October 12, 2023 | 08:48 pm PT
Mini karaoke rooms rise above closed larger venues
Bich Loan at a mini karaoke room in Hanoi's Dong Da District on Sept. 29, 2023. Photo by Minh Phuong
Every weekend, Hanoian Bich Loan finds herself in a Dong Da District “mini karaoke” room, where she can satisfy her passion for singing without the larger closed-down karaoke bars.

Going out to karaoke bars every Saturday had long been a tradition for the 30-year-old Thanh Xuan District resident. However, ever since karaoke bars all over Hanoi had to close in December of 2022 due to fire safety violations, Loan’s only two options were traveling to Hai Phong City or to the nearby districts of Bac Ninh or Ha Nam to book a room in an ordeal that costs a lot of time and effort.

Fortunately for Loan, her passion found an outlet when more than 10 business establishments with mini karaoke rooms opened up all over Hanoi, mostly in the inner districts, beginning at the end of July.

Each room can accommodate 3-5 people and is equipped with a large-screen TV, a tablet to choose songs, speakers, and microphones. Each room can be rented for VND50.000-125.000 (US$2-5) per hour.

"The price is low and the sound quality is equivalent to a professional karaoke bar, so I’m going to keep using this service," Loan says.

After falling in love with the mini karaoke rooms she saw in Korean dramas, Thanh Truc, 20, decided to experience this service for herself when she found out they exist in Hanoi.

As she is afraid all the rooms will be booked on weekends, Truc makes sure to book a room beforehand. Truc’s average room is priced at VND90.000 per hour and can accommodate up to three people.

Truc said the design of the mini karaoke room is similar to what is seen in foreign countries. Aside from the modern equipment, customers can also use some provided instruments, such as the tambourine, to accompany singers and the music track.

"The best thing is that I’m not interrupted by someone trying to sell me beer, alcohol, or expensive dishes of fruits like in a traditional karaoke bar," Truc says.

A quick survey done by VnExpress shows that over the past three months, there has been a rising number of mini karaoke business establishments. On average, inner districts like Cau Giay, Dong Da, and Ba Dinh have at least two or three such locations.

These establishments are open from 9 a.m. to midnight, with students and workers under 35 being the main customer demographic.

Nguyen Van Dinh, the president of the Vietnam Association of Realtors, said that mini karaoke rooms are a new model that can satisfy people’s needs for entertainment while traditional karaoke bars are closed. It can also help boost the economy, especially after two years of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tran Nam, an employee at a mini karaoke business in Hai Ba Trung District, said that 11 of their rooms have been in operation since the end of this July. The price is set at VND50.000-120.000 per hour depending on the time. The small parlor is mostly crowded during nights and weekends, often to the point that they run out of rooms and have to either turn away eager would-be customers and ask them to wait for long periods of time.

"To avoid making our customers wait too long or leave, we always suggest that they book beforehand," Nam says.

Seeing the rise in demand, some businesses have opened up more locations. Aside from singing, customers can rent rooms to watch movies, study, or rest.

Dinh says that the rise of these mini karaoke rooms is a response to trends, but he advises that all businesses must be licensed under the close eye of the authorities.

"Aside from ensuring safety and that they’re not causing disruption, it’s also important for them to follow fire safety regulations to avoid tragic accidents, especially since these rooms are all small and the sound-proof walls are prone to fire," Dinh emphasizes.

A fully equipped karaoke room for five people in Hanois Hai Ba Trung District. Photo by VnExpress/ Quynh Nguyen

A fully equipped karaoke room for five people in Hanoi's Hai Ba Trung District. Photo by VnExpress/ Quynh Nguyen

For example, the mini karaoke room that Bich Loan went to with her friends is on the second floor of an apartment building in Dong Da District, where the only exit is a staircase near the elevator. Moreover, each floor only has a small fire extinguisher.

When asked about what happens if there is a fire, the employees assure that since they are on the second floor, "it only takes 30 seconds to run down the stairs and go outside."

After hearing about citizen concerns, an officer from the Vietnam Fire and Rescue Police Department said that his team had not yet even heard of these new mini karaoke rooms. However, according to him, all types of businesses must report to authorities so that they have the information needed. And authorities also have to check if these establishments follow fire safety regulations or not.

"In the case that a business does not meet regulations, we will have to ask them to cease operation to sufficiently equip themselves, because we don’t want to have another tragic fire like we did several weeks ago. Safety always needs to be the number one prioritization, whether you’re doing business or entertaining yourself," they say.

Though Loan is enthusiastic about singing, she is not willing to risk her life. She and her friends decided to look for establishments on the first floor in hope that it would be faster for them to escape in case of an incident.

For Thanh Truc, she always looks for the exit as soon as she arrives at a karaoke establishments. Even while singing, she and her friends will make sure not to turn the volume up too loud so they can still hear what is going on outside.

"Though the location may have all the fire safety equipment, it’s still each individual’s responsibility to be aware of anything that could happen," she says.

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