Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I don't like bars

A somewhat shocking realisation, given that I spend such a large amount of my time in them!

It would perhaps be more accurate to say that I do not like the way bars are in China (although I find increasingly that I do not like the way bars are in the UK either.... and it's been a while since I checked out the scene in the States; although the DC/Alexandria area where I usually hang out is not particularly well served, I think - far too much trendiness going on!).

I do not like bars that chase the young'n'trendy crowd by trying to be discos or nightclubs (Kai, Bar Blu, Kokomo, etc.).

I do not like bars that are full of fat, middle-aged, affluent, "Yellow Fever"-afflicted expats (The Den, The Tree, Goose & Duck, Maggie's).

I do not like would-be upscale cocktail lounges (Centro, Q, i-Ultra Lounge, Zeta).

I do not like bars with fucking stupid names (Minty, Lugar, Siif..... and, of course, Centro, Q, i-Ultra, Zeta, etc.).

I do not like bars that look more like coffee shops (the standard model for China: see the Houhai and Nanluoguxiang areas passim).

I do not like bars with KTV/Filipino cover bands (i.e., the whole of that Sanlitun North strip).

I do not like bars that think they can charge anything approaching Western prices.

I do not like bars that think they're so fucking hip and cool and trendy and full of "beautiful people" that they can charge more than Western prices (Suzie Wong's, Song).

That really doesn't leave very much. I suppose that explains why such an overpriced charm-vacuum as Paddy O'Shea's actually manages to do quite well.

In all my time in Beijing, there have probably only been a couple of dozen or so bars that I've had any time for at all, and only a handful which have inspired real affection in me. And the majority of these have been chai'd - or suffered changes of name and ownership, or an inexorable decline in standards. These days I spend about 90% of my free time in just two bars.

I should consider myself lucky: many Chinese cities don't have any decent Western-style bars (I'm still looking for one in Shanghai!).

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