Covid-19: Surviving the Downtime with Industry Peers – JungleBird

We are living in interesting times. The impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality business is unprecedented. In light of the unique circumstances we find ourselves in, we thought it would be helpful to gather learnings and insights from industry veterans in hopes that we can help each other out. Have stories and insights to share? Let us know at

Set the Tables
JungleBird is founded by (left to right) Lolita Goh, Divyesh Chauhan, Joshua Ivanovic who are passionate about hospitality and the drive to bring something refreshing to KL’s bar scene. “We are an industry with a common goal for our guests and one that will be relied on by many once this is said and done.” – Joshua Ivanovic.

A tropical rumah rum (house of rum) planted snug in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, JungleBird (No. 44 on Asia’s 50 Best Bars 2019) is the city’s first ever rum bar. Keeping true to its name, the interior of JungleBird is lush with rattan furnishings and banana leaf motifs, giving the place a breezy tropical vibe. With a menu housing over 250 varieties of rums from all over the world, this magnificent collection is featured in creative original signature cocktails in their latest menu ‘Trains, Planes & Automobiles’ – a celebration of the countries JungleBird has taken its founders to since opening in 2017. Notable cocktails such as the Cendol Colada, Strawberries and Cream, Mar-Thai-Nee,  Nyonya Business (below), to name a few.

Nyonya Business JungleBird
Image credit: JungleBird

Inspired by the historic port town of Melaka, Nyonya Business is an interpretation of flavours synonymous with Nyonya traditions. This umami cocktail consists of Diplomatico Planas, chilli, cucumber shrub, cashew orgeat, Pineapple juice, Rojak.

An Open Letter 

By Joshua Ivanovic, Director and co-founder of JungleBird, Rumah Rum 

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the Malaysian government has released a statement extending the current MCO to at least the 28th of April.

Like all other bars here in Kuala Lumpur, JungleBird was forced to temporarily close its doors to our beloved guests after service on the 17th of March 2020. As devastating as this was for us, we understood, as most others did, the decision made by the government was one of necessity. The safety of our team, our guests and ourselves were of the utmost importance. This, however, would come at a cost.

JungleBird’s business strategies: 

The closing of the bar presented us with a number of difficult decisions: 

  1. The first obstacle was to reduce wastage where possible. We achieved this in numerous ways such as dehydrating as much fresh fruit as we could for use at a later date.
  2. Homemade syrups were prioritised for use in our specially crafted menu of bottled drinks available for delivery.
  3. We went into an ultra-clarify mode to reduce dairy waste, and provide our guests with options to enjoy at home, without the worry of short shelf life.

Scenarios to overcome: 

An unavoidable casualty and guaranteed loss to the company were the kegs of beer that had already been tapped. Sadly, these would spoil after a few days with no thirsty mouths to lubricate. Thankfully, and providing the MCO is lifted within 90 days, untapped kegs should be safe. My concern, in this respect, is not just for us and other bars, but for the suppliers that are undoubtedly sitting on palates and palates of beer kegs. Should we see further extensions to business closures, the loss to larger suppliers could be potentially devastating.

Unfortunately for us, the timing could not have been worse. The MCO was enforced literally days before we were scheduled to celebrate our 3rd Anniversary. We had several international guests from London, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines with flights and hotels booked, and eager to join us for a weekend of workshops, guest shifts, and general Rumah Rum fueled fun. However, due to travel restrictions, various government recommendations and personal wellbeing in mind, we had to cancel all of our plans. Luckily, with some skilful negotiating and plenty of time placed on hold, we were able to extend some of the flight tickets until the end of the year. Which means we will celebrate the occasion….One day!

Staff Welfare

We are trying to keep our team busy with some self-improvement exercises as well as keeping them updated with the current state of the MCO. We have encouraged them to take this time to rest, stay up to date with the industry and notch up their knowledge of cocktails and products. As much as I am sure they are all eager to get back to their roles and responsibilities, I think it is essential to keep them motivated and equally so, for us to stay in regular contact with them.

Reassuring our team that we are doing everything in our power to secure the future of both JungleBird and their jobs will allow them to rest at ease during this troubling and uncertain time.

Cleanliness Measures

JungleBird was given a full, extensive deep clean after shift on our last night of operation. Due to the limited movement order, we haven’t asked the staff to exercise weekly cleanings or anything of that nature. The safety of our team is of the utmost importance to us, and any unnecessary travelling could put them and their families at risk.

JungleBird’s positive initiatives and call for support 

In light of the temporary closure, we have managed to pivot quickly to offering
an extensive menu of bottled drinks as a delivery service, ranging from the traditional classics to the favourites you would expect to find at JungleBird – our original recipes, crafted for bottling. All of our serves are made fresh daily with pressed juice and high-quality ingredients.

JungleBird Takeaways

Each delivery comes as a package consisting of: dehydrated garnish (when applicable), a directional card for home mixing, resulting in the best possible serve at enjoyed at home, as well as an exclusive Mixcloud link compiled by one of our inhouse DJs to create as much of a JungleBird experience for our customers, both existing and new.

We have tried to keep our offering broad with something appealing for everyone. We are well known locally for our heavily influenced rum cocktail menus, so this was an excellent opportunity to showcase our versatility across other spirit categories.

Marketing and Social Media Communications 

We have been maximising our presence across social media platforms as well as welcoming any interviews, blogs and cross bar training sessions.

We believe it is important to keep the name JungleBird current in the industry as well as bringing in revenue through alternative channels.

We are also working on a gift voucher offering whereby guests can purchase discounts in advance to be used at JungleBird upon our reopening in the not too distant future.

I cannot stress the importance of staying positive and using this time to work on existing operational procedures and offerings.

Improvements can always be made, and we would like our guests to return to exciting new additions to the bar.

A message to industry peers

To all my fellow industry peers and frequenters. Please stay safe and abide by the rules set by your respective governmental/official authorities. As frustrating as this is for all of us, the sooner this is over, the sooner we can all get back to doing what we do best, with the least amount of collateral damage possible, whichever side of the bar that may be. The worst thing that could happen to our industry would be the indefinite forced closure of establishments due to the
further lengthening of restrictions.

Let’s all support one another and spare a thought for those less fortunate. Those
that are far from their home countries that may be living alone. Let’s share information, discoveries and learnings that may be helping us stay afloat, and could be helpful to others hoping to do the same. But most importantly, let’s stay positive.

We are a strong industry, we are a community, we are a family, and we will get through this.

Contact us on +60 13 839 5715 for information on our delivery service, and
please do keep up to date with us on Facebook and Instagram. Our door (phone)
is always open to friends and peers. Whether it be questions regarding rum, feedback and suggestions for the future, or just a chat.

Big love,
Joshua Ivanovic & Team JungleBird


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