Monday, September 27, 2010

Yet more Beijing sports bar hell

Quite a big football game in the English Premier League on Saturday (7.45pm kick-off for us here in Beijing): up-and-comers Manchester City looking to put an end to table-topping Chelsea's daunting winning streak (and succeeding - yay!).

So... I set out towards Sanlitun (more in hope than expectation, as they say) to try to find somewhere to watch the game.

Luga's Villa was nearly deserted, apart from a gaggle of Africans playing pool in the basement.  The TVs appeared to be tuned to StarSports - or something like that, one of those 'general' sports channels that don't reliably show all the major football games.  Anyway, they were showing a motor racing magazine show with less than 15 minutes to go before kick-off, so it didn't look very promising.  And - as usual, as always these days, it seems - there was no sign of Luga himself, and none of his staff had a clue how to operate the satellite TV channels, so.....  [Luga, old chap, if you want to establish this place as a sports bar, you're really going to have to make a bit more of an effort to find out what's on and make sure you are showing it regularly.]

1st Floor gave every appearance of being 'CLOSED' (despite having a rather token, hopelessly inconspicuous sign in the window saying 'Open') - not entirely their fault: the building work on the front of the Tongli Studios at the moment is killing the business of all the tenants.  Despite the scaffolding and piles of bricks and hazard tape everywhere, I ventured inside to have a look.  I had thought they were continuing to show sport on TV there, but it seems that they were just making a special effort for the World Cup; the TV screens appear to have been removed now, and so they have given up on the idea of trying to promote themselves as a sports bar.  Perhaps not such a great loss, since I found - as I have done on every one of my other half dozen or so brief and unsatisfying visits there - that the staff are all elaborately bored and practically catatonic, and can only with the greatest of difficulty be persuaded to pay any attention to customers at all.

The Stumble Inn was.... completely deserted, as always, on its lower floor (I mean, really: neither any customers nor any staff: I wonder how long you could have a private party down there, helping yourself to the booze, before anyone noticed that you were there?).  Upstairs there was only a handful of people.  But all the TVs were tuned to an Australian Rugby League game.  WHY??  Have they already established a significant Australian (and/or rugby) clientele?  From the near-zero turnout that night, it would appear not.  Come on, chaps: the leading Premier League match of the weekend is always going to be a way bigger draw than Rugby League, however many Aussies there are in this town (although there are, I concede, an awful lot; the Down Under contingent have a disproportionate representation in the English-speaking expat community).

The Den was.... also showing the Aussie rugby... on all but one of its 5 or 6 screens.  The remaining screen was just about to start showing the Man City v Chelsea game, but it was in an awkward position, there was no commentary, and the majority of the punters in there were raucous Aussies following the rugby; so, this didn't seem to be a viable option for watching the game either.

The Pavilion is atmosphereless, up itself, and prohibitively expensive (not to mention being on the west side of the Workers' Stadium, which is a horrible area, with its tawdry array of over-priced restaurants and cavernous nightclubs).  I'm not sure if I've been there since the last World Cup (the 2006 one!); and I only went then because I was chasing a woman!

Danger Doyle's is - bafflingly - still in business; but I don't know anyone who's been there in nearly a year.  And it's still upstairs in a mall.  And it is, I'm quite sure (it's almost always a safe bet in Beijing, alas), still stupidly overpriced and completely lacking in staff training.

And so, I yet again had to give up on the idea of being able to watch the English football anywhere in this city.  (The Chairman and I were quite keen to try and catch the Manchester United game last night as well, but we both agreed there wasn't any point in travelling over to Sanlitun to try our luck in any of these SHITE so-called "sports bars".)

On Saturday, as I trekked forlornly from one dismal non-event of a sports bar to the next, I discovered that local football side Beijing Guo'an were just about to kick off in the Workers' Stadium.  I was tempted to go to that instead - but I don't know where to buy tickets any more, since the booth at the north gate was removed a year or two ago.  Thus, it became another miserable, sport-free weekend for me.  Someone I know must have a satellite dish, surely....

1 comment:

el said...

Paddy's, while a culture shock every time you enter it, is usually pretty reliable for the premiership (iirc). I've been delighted to find two pubs in Seattle that show the games on delay here for those of us who don't want to suffer through bad streams at 5 am. Nice that they make up for living in a crap time zone.