Friday, January 08, 2010

Signs of desperation

1) I've never been to super-ritzy nightclub Lan (the one with all the cod Louis Quatorze decor designed by Philippe Starck), and I don't suppose I'm ever likely to. It doesn't sound like my kind of place. In fact, I've never even worked out where it is.

I'm not sure how many other people go there. Only a handful of my friends ever have, and seldom more than once. It can't have been a good year or two to be launching such a venture, what with the Olympics killing Beijing's nightlife for much of last year, and then the 'meltdown' hitting us. I keep hearing of (half-hearted, short-lived) new initiatives to try and build a stronger clientele for the place, but nothing much seems to come of any of them.

And then..... I discovered from one of my cooler and more high-tone friends on New Year's Eve that they were doing an all-night 'free flow of drinks' deal.... for 90 kuai a head! I daresay there were all kinds of restrictions on it: surely no champagne, and probably only the cheapest house wines; perhaps some basic cocktails and mixed drinks, and domestic beers. But even so, 90rmb is a pretty keen price for an all-you-can-drink - especially on New Year's Eve. And at a place like Lan, 90 kuai would ordinarily buy you probably only one or two drinks.

Damn it, they were undercutting Luga - who was charging 100rmb for his New Year's Eve Party at the Villa (though with some discounts for advance or multiple ticket purchases), and was only offering heavily discounted drinks rather than a completely free flow. A deal that cheap at a place like Lan strikes the wrong note; it should be charging more than anyone else, to emphasise its class and exclusivity. If the place had any kind of a following at all, it could easily have charged a 200 or 300 kuai door fee for a New Year's Eve Party, even without offering a lot of specials on the drinks. When the city's swankiest nightclub is trying to compete with Luga's Villa for custom, I rather think it must be on its last legs.

2) New entry in the nightclub stakes (rather less swanky than Lan, but still with somewhat lofty ambitions) Le Zazou has its official launch tonight. There's an "exclusive, VIP pre-launch party - with French cabaret" from 8pm. Well, "exclusive" - except that they seem to have been giving away invitations to anyone who's gone in there this week (admittedly that's not many people, because of the post-holiday lull and the severely inclement weather). A double ticket found its way into my hands, but I decided it was not likely to be my kind of event and have been trying to give it to a good home. Trying and trying and trying. Can't give these tickets away! (Zazou hasn't been building itself much of a rep in its two weeks of 'soft opening', and I can see why. But more on that some other time....)

One thing these two rather sorry examples have in common is their indifferent - almost non-existent? - promotion. I didn't see any advertisements either for the Lan New Year's Eve offer or for tonight's Launch Party at Le Zazou.

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