MANILA, Philippines ? Freddie Aguilar has enough reasons to feel good these days. On Friday night, the 56-year-old singer-songwriter?s latest business venture, Ka Freddie?s Bar and Restaurant on Adriatico St. Malate (a stone?s throw away from Robinsons Ermita), had its grand opening?after he personally supervised a six-month renovation of the original site.
The entertainment complex had actually opened without fanfare in February this year. Aguilar says that the nightly turnout of patrons, especially on weekends, has so far confirmed that he and his business partners made a good decision to set up shop at the heart of Manila?s tourist district.
?I?m serious with this new venture. I want to be successful in Malate,? he tells the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net).
Given the financial and artistic pressures of starting a music-related business, Aguilar?s easygoing disposition would otherwise seem out of place. His enterprise is merely at the pre-operating phase of a projected long haul to recoup a multi-million peso investment.
He tells of the unending hassles of refurbishing an existing building to fit the new vision for Ka Freddie?s. The site was previously a videoke joint and its awkward structure provided enough challenge to him.
?When we first checked out the place, I had the feeling my co-investors entertained doubts about the location. Multiple walls and dividers took up available space. My partners probably didn?t see its potential as an entertainment complex,? Aguilar explains.
He adds: ?On hindsight, I think we could have cut some costs if we just tore down the place and built a new one. We would have saved time and money spent retracing and replacing the worn-out water piping network, for instance.?
But his co-investors, including Becca Padilla (Robin Padilla?s elder half-sister), Gena Baroha and other family friends, kept their faith on the viability of the business. Beyond the continuing bankability of his name as a Pinoy folk music icon, Aguilar has been in the club and restaurant business for close to three decades. A lot of savvy and well-earned lessons must have rubbed off on him over the years.
His first try was called Freddie Aguilar?s Checkpoint along Roxas Blvd. It was such a small venue that even on SRO weekends, gross earnings could only pay for the staff?s salaries and operating expenses.
In the early ?90s, he rebounded with the 350-seater Ka Freddie?s in Tagaytay. It catered to a captive market and the capacity crowd on Fridays and Saturdays was enough to cover a week?s expenses plus a little return on investment.
But five years later he had to close it down because he couldn?t afford the increase in leasing fees. The decision came at an unfortunate time, just when he felt that the place was about to start making money for his investors.
Aguilar later ventured into franchising the Ka Freddie?s music bar and restaurant concept in Antipolo and Baguio. Unfortunately, these were short-lived engagements. He claims the franchisees failed to fulfill contracts.
He recently inked another Ka Freddie franchise in Bacoor, Cavite, a few weeks before work on the Malate branch got going.
Right now, Ka Freddie?s Malate is the flagship franchise. Its main attraction, a 60-seater club, features live music and serves food nightly. Smaller function rooms named Isabela and Vigan are for family gatherings, birthday parties, videoke, and special occasions.
The Palawan Garden is open 24/7 with affordable meals targeting itinerant diners. It offers the return of classic wee-hour morning fares for tired musicians and party night owls.
A new addition to the Ka Freddie?s entertainment concept is a boutique where Aguilar?s personal designs and those of his five grown-up children are on display. He designs his own jeans while two of his daughters craft their own clothes and accessories. Customers can view these designs and probably have one custom-made to their taste.
The soundtrack to fun and dining at Ka Freddie?s Malate is a mix of the old and the new. Aguilar himself performs with the Watawat Band on the main stage on Saturdays, and on Fridays and Saturdays starting July 18.
On weekdays, the musical treats come from his rapper son Jonan, upcoming rockers Gin Rumm & Truth, and a slew of solo performers from Marc Velasco to K.O. Jones. The first Aguilar offspring to follow his footsteps, Maegan, sings jazz and the blues with Sandugo on Saturdays.
Also on Saturdays, patrons are encouraged to participate in the performances by sending in their personal stories, which Aguilar and the band will set to music. The idea was said to be a hit at Ka Freddie?s Tagaytay and its resurrection at Malate is highly anticipated.
Aguilar currently calls himself a ?free bird? on matters of the heart and relationships. ?I?ve been through three marriages that didn?t work out,? he confesses. ?I don?t think it?d be that easy for me to enter into a new relationship now. Basta at present the business gets my full attention.?