Since it opened in Manchester’s Chinatown in 2010, K2 has become one of the most popular karaoke bars in the north of England, and even throughout much of the UK. Modelled on the funky and glamorous KTV bars that are abundant in Hong Kong and Shanghai, K2 has brought the authentic concept of private rooms for groups of people to the UK so that the high number of Chinese and other Asian ethnic groups who are familiar with it can almost feel like they’re right at home.
As well as the large numbers of Chinese clientele, K2 has also seen an increase in Westerners beginning to understand how KTV works and say they get a lot of them coming in too.
“We are extremely busy these days, seven days a week, and although most of our customers are Chinese and Asian, we do get a lot of Westerners coming in now, mostly during the weekends,” says Chris Lui, K2’s Marketing Executive.
K2 currently has 33 rooms of various sizes, all of which are fitted with air-con and are individually decorated and furnished with everything manufactured and shipped over from China. The smallest room can hold between 6 and 9 people while the largest, called “The Chivas Room” because it’s sponsored by the Chivas Regal brand of Scotch whisky, can accommodate parties of up to 60. This is K2’s newest room and like the others, it boasts a uniquely elegant yet futuristic design.
Each sound-proofed room has a state of the art touchscreen TV to select from tens of thousands of English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese and Korean songs, which are regularly updated with many of the latest chart-toppers. Prices for rooms range from £120 for 3 hours depending on the size and the night, with special daytime rates per head also available. Customers are free to order food and drink up to the room’s tariff and then should pay the difference if they go over it.
Annual events such as the lead-up to Christmas with work parties, Fresher’s Week, New Year’s Eve and of course Chinese New Year, which falls on 19th February, are K2’s busiest times of the year. K2 usually holds a bash on Chinese New Year’s Eve. However, before that on 13th February, K2 will be celebrating its 5th birthday with another big night when customers could be in with the chance of winning an iPhone 6. “Each year we want to do something fresh and different, especially with the competitions, but still want it to be fun,” says Chris, “For example, last CNY we put red envelopes with prizes in balloons in each room and people really enjoyed popping them to see what they won. We haven’t decided what we’ll do this year but we want it to be even more fun.”
On top of his office work, organising these main events and also helping a lot of local student societies hold parties at K2, Chris keeps himself even busier as a DJ, and not just in K2’s own bar.
“I started taking an interest in DJ’ing at about 17 when a friend of mine had decks at his house and I’d go round there and have a go,” he tells Nee Hao. But then I went travelling for about 18 months when I was 19 and I spent a year in Australia. After checking out the clubbing scene there that’s where my love for DJ’ing and experience began to grow.”
Chris has only really been DJ’ing properly for about four years, having self-taught himself, but says his first real breakthrough came when one of the DJs at K2 – when the nightclub was bigger and more popular – left to take up a residency in Dubai and encouraged him to take over. “I’ve been doing a lot of sets here for the past two years or so, usually most weekends when the bar is quite busy and whenever there are parties going on.”
But Chris’ path as a DJ hasn’t stopped there. He also has regular slots at many Chinese/East Asian nights that are held throughout the Northwest, including Tiny Tiny Entertainment in Sheffield and in Manchester with Hello Pussy & V-Town. Chris usually plays for a Chinese/East Asian crowd and says the parties held for them are extremely popular. “I love playing at these nights because the partygoers enjoy a really wide range of genres so I can play right across the spectrum, from R&B to EDM and from current songs on the charts to K-Pop and they love it all,” he tells us. “Plus, it’s also in line with my own musical tastes – but I love pretty much all genres of music from all decades. So sometimes when we get a slightly older crowd in at K2 I can mix it up even more with stuff from the 80s and 90s or disco or Motown, which is fun.”
Chris loves being a DJ as well as working at K2 and hopes things continue on up for him. “I definitely want to expand my horizons as a DJ,” he says, adding that he’d love to play internationally. In the meantime, K2 is also continuing to change and grow. Over the past couple of years it has become less of a joint karaoke bar and nightclub as the karaoke side of the business has taken off with the increased number of rooms. The bar area on the second floor – which also hosted celebrity after parties – is smaller than what it once was to make way for K2’s two newest, biggest karaoke rooms but still attracts crowds on weekends. The team is currently looking to transform it into more of a chill-out bar area. “We’re thinking of putting in a pool table and jukebox so that people can also come in during the day as well as the evening or in between karaoke sessions,” Chris tells us. “At the moment it can still function as a small clubbing area, like it was on New Year’s Eve but we felt a change is needed.”
So if you’re ever around Manchester, are a fan of singing your heart out and want a taste of modern Chinese culture right in the heart of the city, K2 is the place to go for an alternative but brilliant night out where you can have your own private little party indoors. Check out their website and Facebook page for more information and upcoming events, including their 5th Birthday and Chinese New Year parties!