Raw was the third gay sauna established by well known, openly gay entrepreneur Max Lim. It opened on 1 July 2002 and was located at 45 Ann Siang Road #02-02, at the peak of Ann Siang Hill, just behind Maxwell Food Centre and a 5-min walk from the Tanjong Pagar MRT station. Its telephone number was 6222-2252.
so-named to ride on the gay Maleculture brand and website established by Lim since the early 1990s.
Raw's competitive advantages were its budget entry fees, 24-hour opening hours and a 'barracks' containing individual rooms for those desiring to stay for prolonged periods. It pioneered the concept of themed nights, which later spread to all saunas. This introduced variety and catered to subsegments of the gay crowd such as chubs, foam party lovers, minority races, foreigners and sun worshippers. It also experimented, for a short period, with an a la carte restaurant on the ground floor, a male-to-female drag review also on the ground floor called Chinatown Cabaret which replaced the restaurant because business at the eatery was poor, and male undergarment/swimming trunk fashion shows. The drag cabaret also failed to take off and the ground floor was ultimately renovated into a spa pool and showers where foam parties were occasionally held.
Raw was the first and only sauna to proudly hang a rainbow flag, the LGBT icon signifying diversity, outside its main entrance. It was located next to Ann Siang Hill, already a popular cruising ground. Membership was initially required but was scrapped by Lim after some time to boost business.
It closed down in 2008. Lim subsequently started a gay sauna along Eu Tong Sen Street called The Heater Room the same year.
This article was written by Roy Tan.