Obscure Mall of the Week: Ming Arcade

Updated: 4 min read

Update 15 November 2022: Freehold property Ming Arcade has been put up for sale via public tender for S$140m. This works out to about S$2,542 per square foot per plot ratio. The seven-storey commercial property sits on approximately 12,132 square feet of space and is zoned as “commercial”. The tender closes 15 December 2022 at 3pm.

In this series of obscure malls, we will look at various malls located in different parts of Singapore. This week, we will be looking at Ming Arcade.

Ming Arcade is located near Orchard Road, along Cuscaden Road. It is right in front of the famous Hard Rock Café and a few minutes’ walk from The Forum and Orchard Towers. Ming Arcade is one of the older malls in Orchard and was often patronised by Singaporeans from the 1960s to 1980s; at the time, it was a music and nightlife hub in Singapore.

Structure of Ming Arcade

Ming Arcade consists of three basement levels and seven storeys. There is a total of 88 units, ranging from 140 to 334 square feet for each unit. It has a rigid structure whereby the elevator and toilets are placed at one end. On the other end, shops are lined up in two rows facing one another.

Bars and pubs are the main tenants as other shops have closed down or shifted away. Today, it’s more of an entertainment zone than a shopping mall.

Empty shop units in Ming Arcade.
Vacant shop units on the third level of Ming Arcade.

History of Ming Arcade

This long-standing building has a rich history and played an important part in Singapore’s music and youth scene decades ago.

In the ’60s and ’70s, it was one of the most patronised malls in the country, almost equivalent to present-day 313@Somerset, or the other major malls along nearby Orchard Road. Ming Arcade played an important role in Singapore’s cultural scene, specifically in rock and blues.

(It’s been speculated, but never verified, that this is one reason Hard Rock Cafe opened right across from it; but Ming Arcade had become obscure by the time Hard Rock moved in).

Many artists, such as The Quests and Tokyo Square, held performances at the Rainbow Lounge. The Arcade was also home to Singapore’s first disco and a place for long-haired Singaporeans to party without discrimination (being a male with long hair was a big deal about 50 years ago; some cafes and restaurants wouldn’t even let you in).

The interior of Cash Studio Family Karaoke.
The Cash Studio Family Karaoke has replaced The Rainbow Lounge. In a way, it’s still a place for musical expression.


Right now, Ming Arcade is a shadow of its former self. Many shops have already closed down or shifted somewhere else. Just last year, 59 of the shop units were put up for sale. Mind you, these shops make up two-thirds of the mall, which means the silence is deafening. Lights are off along long corridors, and things only come to life in the evenings (when the pubs start up).

An empty music shop that has closed down.
Hints remain of numerous niche shops, some closed down. Most of them are music-related.

In contrast, everything changes from 7 pm onward. The pubs and bars roar to life all the way till the wee hours. And for a brief few hours of the day, Ming Arcade captures a shred of its former glory.

Iconic Shops

There are only a few main tenants, such as Cash Studio Family Karaoke and Chips Café & Pub. There’s also a tailoring shop and a shop that sells male undergarments. Now and then, a short-lived, niche store pops up, one selling used guitars or clothes that would fit only the most unique aesthetic, but these come and go. The fact is, Ming Arcade doesn’t have the foot traffic to support much retail.

The dominant tenant is Cuscaden Patio, renowned for its affordable beer towers and buckets of chicken wings. Other than that, Singaporeans in the know like to swing by for “pub grub” on the occasional weekend. Ming Arcade is still a nice place to chill with friends; it’s on Orchard Road but has eateries at heartland prices.

The exterior of Chips Café.
There are a lot of pubs and pub grub, though.

How to Revive Ming Arcade

Is there any chance to make Ming Arcade great again? Tough but definitely not impossible. This is still a property with a solid central location. But its regulars and many older Singaporeans may actually resent a renewal of Ming Arcade if that erases its old rebel image.

It’s hard to imagine a Uniqlo where the heart of Singapore’s blues scene used to be.


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