Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ah, so that explains it...

I have long been fascinated by the Mystery Bar (not its real name, you understand).

It's quite big; not too discouragingly twee (the curse of interior decor in most Chinese bars); indeed, it's quite winningly dark and unfussy inside. And it's in a not unpromising location: on a major road, mid-way between Gongti and Houhai.

With my eccentric predilection for walking home from Sanlitun, I have been past this place many times over the past four or five years. And I have never seen a single customer in there - not one. The two or three times I've poked my head around the door to investigate, the handful of people lounging around inside all seem to have been members of staff. And they were always hugely reluctant to serve me a drink - they'd always claim they were just closing.... whether it was 1am (which it usually was, but that's still early for Beijing) or 10pm.

How odd, I always thought, that the place could keep going so long, with so little custom.

A bar owner friend who's been intermittently contemplating trying to buy the place out told me a little while back that he'd seen a notice in the window advertising for a 'Day Manager', and thought this would be a decent pretext for going and having a chat with them about what their set-up was. Curiouser and curiouser: why the hell do they need a Day Manager when they're not even conspicuously "open for business" at night???

Ah, well, it seems they needed someone to "keep an eye on the girls". "Girls???" I boggled (naively) for a moment. The Chinese friend relaying the tale was struggling for the right word: "Yes. What do you call it when girls have sex with you for money?" "Oh my god, you mean it's A BROTHEL?"

So it would seem.

Mystery solved, then. Although I still don't quite understand why they're so darned reluctant to serve anyone a drink. If they've set up a bar as a 'front' for their brothel, you wouldn't think it would harm business to actually run it as a bar. I suppose they just don't want laowai custom - for beer or broads.

I probably shouldn't name the place - but here's a clue.

1 comment:

Froog said...

Shades it was called. It closed down fairly shortly after I posted this. Another of the city's great curiosities falling victim to the march of 'progress'!