Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Anxious Times

Anxious times at Jianghu

I have commented already on my disquiet at the removal of the rather fine, high, dark wood bar from the rear of the main room at Jianghu. This change has, as I feared, crucially affected the ambience of the room. In the past, anyone sitting at the bar on the high barstools would invariably face the performers on live music nights; and this would, I believe, help to concentrate the focus of other punters seated in front of them, at a lower level, towards the stage also. Now, the rearmost 'booth' of bench seats which has replaced the bar is rather too removed from the stage.... and people in this back corner, chatting and paying little attention to the music, insidiously encourage a similar attitude to spread through the rest of the room. The response of the musicians or the management seems to be to crank up the PA to painfully loud levels (I suppose they may also be trying to cater to the fact that these days very often people are trying to listen from outside in the small adjacent courtyard).

Even worse, there has been a significant hike in the drinks prices. It's still not too unreasonable (some of the measures are very generous: the hefty gin & tonic remains a bargain); but when you've got used to a place being one of the cheapest bars in the neighbourhood, a sudden 5 or 10 kuai increase on every item on the menu is quite a hard psychological blow. I fear this may be discouraging the Chinese patrons especially. There used to be a crowd of youngsters (including The Stylish Girl, The Chairman's and my Christmas crush) - students from the nearby Central Academy of Drama, I would guess - who were 'regulars' there, but now seem to have deserted the place. The last few times I've been, it has been almost all laowai in there. This may be good for Tianxiao's business, but it does considerably diminish the charm of the place.

It is, I sense, now becoming a little too widely known, and moving inexorably 'upmarket'. We have had a wonderful, wonderful year there - but I fear the really good times may now be over. Alas and alack.

Anxious times at The Pool Bar

Oh, please god, may the same thing not happen at my beloved Pool Bar. Luke is trying to drum up more custom. He has finally put a listing in That's Beijing. Another expats listings mag, City Weekend, hasn't yet added the place to its bar directory, but has just given it a modestly prominent plug via a featured customer recommendation extracted from one of its online discussion boards.

Now, I don't believe anyone really consults these directories when looking for a new bar to try. I certainly don't (a feature article might be different! Oh, no; please, no, no, NO!). But, oh, I hope we aren't about to get swamped. I want Luke to do well financially (and I am making my own, not insubstantial, contribution to that), but..... it's a small bar. The level of custom it enjoys at the moment is just about right. With more than about 20 people in, it starts to feel uncomfortably crowded.

The regulars are contemplating the need to mount a defensive campaign - perhaps having at least one of us on station in the bar at all times, ready to curmudge the bejesus out of any would-be new punters who venture through the door.

Really, people - move along, there's nothing to see here. It's not a good bar at all. Most of the time, it's just me and Crazy Chris propping up the bar here, talking nonsense, contesting The Barney Gumbel Award (or arguing, as last night, about which one of us would be Norm and which one Cliff....). GO AWAY!!!


Tulsa said...

agreed... particularly on the Jianghu anxiety. i am guilty of being that chatty customer in the back set of sofas. it's so far removed from the music, the ppl around me keep asking me questions... it's hard to focus.

and the prices!

and they've removed a few of my regular drinks!


Froog said...

Well, use your feminine charms on TX. He might see reason. I'm particularly concerned about the disappearance of the Chinese custom - and I think he might be too, even though they don't spend much money.