Friday, January 08, 2010


It's been a somewhat anxious week for me, a week of nervous anticipation, a week of deprivation.

I have been denied access to my 'second home', the 12 Square Metres bar - formerly "Beijing's Smallest Bar" * - at the bottom of Nanluoguxiang, all this week, while it has been closed for remodelling. (I have been watching this little video of the place - as it used to be - almost daily, and weeping nostalgic tears into my keyboard.)

But now a Phoenix is struggling out of the ashes (and the dust and the rubble) and preparing to take flight.

Having checked it out last night, I can say that the new space (fully three times as big as before) does look very promising.... and the new bar is a beautiful piece of wood.

However, we're still some weeks away, at least, from completing the transformation of the bar - the new room to the rear hasn't really taken shape yet; new decorations and furniture are needed; and the staining and varnishing of the new bar and bar stools will have to wait until after this damp weather clears and the wood can dry out properly. (And we may, one day, get an indoor toilet; but not yet a while.)

Nevertheless, Joseph and Li Mei are determined to open for business again tonight (the rear room might be curtained off until they get it spic and span; but the front bar is much as it ever was). And I imagine I - and most of the other 'regulars' - will be looking in to wish them well. (A quiet night among friends is far more alluring to me than some wanky nightclub launch event.)

* This always used to be their tagline, and it was rather too successful in attracting the attention (but not the custom) of Chinese tourists with digital cameras, who would drive the boss Joseph crazy with their incessant snapping away at the sign, the door, the window... the customers through the window. As fate would have it, it seems that just as they were deciding to expand the bar, a new little place has opened up in Sanlitun which might have stolen the mantle from them anyway - I haven't checked it out yet, but it's a place called Tryst which supposedly only has room for 5 or 6 customers at one time.

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