Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Great Names for Bars (A new competition)

My (recently inseparable) drinking companion, Crazy Chris, was telling me the other day about a bar he used to frequent: a classic dive, open LATE (perhaps 24 hours?), and home to a regular gaggle of hardcore drinkers. I'm not sure if this favoured watering-hole dated from his university days in Chicago, or his previous teaching stint in Korea, or from somewhere else - but it sounded like very much my kind of place.

The best thing about Chris's recollections of this place, though, was the name. He said he could never remember what the bar was actually called, but that he and his buddies dubbed it The Blackout Bar - because the long, late, and heavy drinking sessions it encouraged tended to tear holes in the memory.

That, I think, really is a great name for a bar. If I ever get a place of my own, this is now a leading contender for what to call it. (Avid readers may recall that I have in the past favoured The Pile O' Sand as a distinctively Beijing name for a bar.)

A little while back, Beijing nightlife cataloguer Jim Boyce suggested a number of bar names on an Olympic theme, the best of which - for a pair of side-by-side drinking dens, of course - was The Parallel Bars.

Since our venerable Possible Band Names game seems to have run out of steam a bit (not that I'm giving up on it just yet, mind you - if you have new suggestions for that thread, please share), I think I should institute a new competition - to find the best name for a bar.

Immediately I can envision 4 major sub-categories: bar names that already exist, and completely novel name suggestions; bar names that have specific relevance for Beijingers, and bar names that might work anywhere in the world. (No sci-fi characters or letters of the alphabet, please!)

Let me have your thoughts.


The British Cowboy said...

I have a definite fondness for a bar in DC, in the (oh so annoyingly trendy and hip) Adam's Morgan neighborhood called Madam's Organ.

It's a crap bar though, which is not suprising seeing as it is in DC.

Froog said...

I'l have to check that out next time I'm over.

Great name - but rather location-specific!

The British Cowboy said...

Don't check it out. It sucks balls, is expensive, and is populated by DC yuppies.

My fondness for it extends as far as the name.

There was a fine laundromat/bar combo in Chicago called Suds & Duds.

Froog said...

Not 'Suds & Buds'???

There used to be a bar here in Beijing called 5:19, which began its evening 'happy hour' at that time. Not a very interesting name in English, but in Chinese - being the crazy, pun-prone language that it is - the numbers 519, wu yao jiu, sound very like the phrase for "Give me a drink!"

Did you ever go to Garlicky Shots in Soho? Not a great name, but...... it does exactly what it says on the label. The snack menu was garlic-heavy; the drink list was vodka-heavy; and I think they had some garlic-flavoured vodkas. It was run by this mad Icelandic guy. I haven't been in over 10 years, and I suspect it's not still going (I suspect he isn't still going). One of the sleaziest places I've been in - hence, kind of fun!

Anonymous said...

I actually miss 5:19. THAT was a great place to hang.

Froog said...

Hmmm, well, I always found the larger, 2nd incarnation of 5:19 to be deeply charmless (although I'd known Dave & Stasi for ages, and always tried to be supportive). Upstairs it often stank off-puttingly of sweat (particularly after a darts night); downstairs, of mildew. And, other than on a darts night or a Hash night, it was always deserted.

The original 5:19, however, (taking over from Artefacts, a little bar hidden away above the laundry next to Green Lake Gardens) now that was a great little place. Sadly short-lived, as is so often the case in Beijing.

Froog said...

I think the best bar name in Beijing currently is - alas - The Den.

Or maybe Huxley's. I like bars named after the owner; it gives them more personality.

I suppose Sammy's rates a mention on that basis. I particularly like that everybody calls it that, even though its name is supposedly The Sunset Grill.

Is Sammy open for business again yet??

Brendan said...

Not exactly a bar, but I always thought someone should open a pub/restaurant with an outdoor deck and call it "Paddy O'Dining."

Froog said...

Brendan, control yourself! The Pun Police may have to pay you an intimidatory visit. Are you back from your visa run now?

But that reminds me - Paddy Field's is actually a pretty funny name for an Irish bar in China.

(We do have one such here in Beijing, but it's not really a very good bar.)

Anonymous said...

Bit late to add a comment here but I must. To understand it you need to have some English friends who are criminally insane:

I once stayed in a hotel in Colorado Springs called The Broadmoor and discovered to my surprise that they hadn't thought of calling their bar Her Majesty's Pleasure.

I don't remember whether it was a nice bar or not.

Froog said...

I hope you suggested that to them, Tony.

I remember the great Jeffrey Bernard once suggested that there should be a refuge for errant males ejected from home by their long-suffering womenfolk called the Gone-Too-Far Bar, which would offer early evening discounts during its "Unhappy Hour".

Froog said...

I recently explained why FUBAR would be the perfect name for a Chinese bar.

Abadidon said...

I'm living in Nanning (Guangxi) and i spend few month in Yangshuo (THE famous tourist place or tourist trap, i don't know really). There is a bar owned by an australian named 98, which means simply bar in chinese if u translate it. Simple but it works...

Froog said...

I hear a rumour that there is a Fubar about to open in Beijing. I should charge royalties, or consultancy fees, or something!

More recently, I have come up with the concept of Carbon Bigfoot - the most environmentally unfriendly bar in the world. I think it's an idea the locals might go for in a big way.

Man in Black said...

If you can overlook the Frog connotations....

1. L'Internationale

Pretentious, Topical, Cosmopolitan, International...not unlike myself.

2. Smoke and Barley

Keep it simple.

3. Church.

Simple AND sacrilegious.

4. Froog's

Hell, why not?

Froog said...

Smoke and Barley sounds too much like a whisky bar - and I don't approve of those.

Church sounds more like a nightclub. In fact, it is - or was - the name of a club in the King's Cross district of London.

Froog's would risk blowing my cover, wouldn't it?

And L'Internationale, really? I can see that being a restaurant, or maybe a cocktail bar, but never a bar bar.

Froog said...

A few days ago I posted a new list of bar name suggestions, to try to get this thread energised again. I'll paste them below.

Not great, but a reasonable illustration of the broad range of possible approaches...

(Another cocktail bar name!!)

100 Flowers
(A very apposite reference for China - though not a very pleasant one. And perhaps a tad obscure for those who aren't au fait with their modern Chinese history.)

(A playful jibe at the French component of Room 101's original ownership syndicate! Ah, it would be a great name for an English restaurant.... if such a thing could ever exist!)

(Hmm, I see this as being more of a studenty type of place up in Wudaokou - perhaps even a meat-market/disco like Propaganda.)

Rick's Café
(The only place I've ever come across somewhere that takes its name from Bogie's famous nightclub in Casablanca is Negril, at the western tip of Jamaica. Odd. You'd think that such a universally recognisable pop culture reference would have been exploited for marketing myriads of bars all around the world. I wonder if the Warner Bros. goons crack down on this kind of thing?? Not in China, surely?! I'd love to try and do a Rick's one day, somewhere; but I think my conception of the place - though it might include the jazz/cabaret of the movie - would be very different in lots of ways.)

(This is the kind of name that is prompted primarily by the conceits of the interior design team rather than any other consideration: you can see that austere black-and-white theme, can't you? Not a completely terrible name; better than Ginkgo; but not great.)

The Workers' Flag
(".... is soaked in drink./ It's not as red as you may think...." Oh, how many times did I sing that in my far-off student days? An unusual name, but a very workable one, I think: fits in nicely with the locale in Communist China, immediately suggests a simple but catchy logo/symbol/gimmick.... and might possibly attract an amusingly outspoken clientele of would-be philosopher-revolutionaries.)

(One of my favourites from this little selection. For me, it would fit a restaurant better than a bar - but that was what Ginkgo was aiming to be. It's the Spanish for 'destiny' [the great golfer Seve Ballesteros used to invoke it a lot whenever his winning ways deserted him: "I feel I have many more victories yet in my destino."], so it might prove particularly attractive as a 'date place'.)

The Blackout Bar
(This was in fact a suggestion from my erstwhile drinking companion, the determinedly eccentric young American boozehound Crazy Chris - inspired by his experiences in Korea, where he was never able to remember the name of his favourite late-night drinking den.)

(Now, this could definitely work! A New York cultural reference that will beguile the Chinese punters, and one that comes complete with its own - incomparably groovy - theme song. Oh yes, someone should do this.)

Oh, of course, I suggested Fubar as an ideal name for a bar in China on here long, long ago..... but someone has done that now. (I'm still waiting for my royalties.)

Dave in Oz said...

Un, not sure how this would translate into Chinese characters; but am getting the impression that you prefer the slightly 'down-at-heel' so how about "Slee's Bar".

PS; word verifaction 'troph'.

Froog said...

Not a bad suggestion, Dave.

I'm not sure we could come up with a transliteration that mean anything appropriate in Chinese, but it would probably sound like SUR-LEE - which would again be amusingly apt for the English-speaking drinkers.

Happy Australia Day!!

Froog said...

In this postyesterday, I recorded that a Japanese friend has just opened up a bar in Jianwai SOHO called Shala.

I couldn't resist suggesting Shama Lama Ding Dong as an alternative. It's one of the numbers performed by Otis Day & The Knights in Animal House - check out the link to hear the song.