Goodbye Premium Sofa: The Death of HK’s Basement Club Scene
“I do this purely for music, not to be cool, I just want people to have fun whether they are poor or rich or gay, straight, local, black, white. That’s still my conception of a party.” – Lucas Luraka, owner of Premium Sofa Club.

On a Sunday morning, at around 5am, the Premium Sofa Club purged its smoke-ridden, cozy basement for the last time. The street was already dotted with small groups of party-goers who had been unable to enter the venue, where m oving through the room felt like an assault on all the bodies around me.

Luckily, they were not the type of crowd to care.

80’s inspired electronic music blared from the speakers while owner Lucas Luraka energetically spun a turntable. Lucas says he started Premium out of frustration when he arrived on the scene, unable to find venues playing music he truly liked, and unwilling to let him DJ, even if for free.

“The club scene was run by very few families and companies, and I wasn’t welcome. It was all run by the guy who owns Volar, and you had to look like a model just to DJ.”

The Sofa Club started on Wing Lok street. Three years in, the building was demolished (luxury housing will take it’s place in the near future) and Sofa Club moved to Bonham Strand where they flourished for one year before the rent was increased to an unsustainable rate.

Hidden Agenda (HA), Hong Kong’s solo indie music venue, has relocated twice since opening their doors in 2009, a result of their attempt to exist in industrial buildings rather than commercial ones. The venue will shut down in July after a recent string of clashes with authorities including the arrest of the owner and foreign musicians performing without employment visas.

“All I can say is that Hidden Agenda was being targeted,” says Bob Wan who has been working alongside HA owner Hui Chung since the beginning.

The Hong Kong police pay Hidden Agenda a visit.
After one raid in March, foreign bands have started cancelling already-scheduled appearances at Hidden Agenda.
Bob says that unless venue owners receive significant investment or corporate backing, it’s nigh impossible to run an indie music venue in a commercial space in Hong Kong. Luraka of Sofa Club laments the same woes, the difficulty of maintaining a space that isn’t part of the mainstream club scene in Hong Kong where regulations are highly inhospitable to underground and indie venues.

In March, Canadian art rock band Braids nearly had their show stopped before it even started when undercover hygiene officers showed up.
The club was accused of running an entertainment venue without a valid license.
“Then you have LKF, where they put speakers in the slanted streets with girls walking around in high heels and people are so drunk. I don’t think it’s very safe, but the people who run clubs there are untouchable. It seems like there are different laws for different people.”

In my interview with Bob, he formally congratulated the Hong Kong Government for “destroying a world famous indie venue.” Without the option of existence in industrial spaces and the sky high rent of commercial ones, Wan thinks the future of Indie music and affordable performances in Hong Kong is bleak.

Lucas says that at least with electronic music, things seem to be slowly improving. When I asked where he will now go for a night out, Lucas responded, “I will explore a bit to see what’s going on, but I’m not sure I will find what I truly like. Maybe I’ll just have to open another club …”

Club-goers mingle outside Premium Sofa Club. Some were leaving, some never made it inside at all due to its capacity.
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