Monday, February 14, 2011

Last call for Luga...

I had been thinking - after the strange and unexpected failure to open for the Superbowl last Monday (perhaps Luga just didn't know that it was on?!) - that Luga's Villa might have closed its doors for good.

There's obviously something jinxed about that location (and I hear some alarming tales about the landlord!): even The Golden Elephant (one of the better Indian restaurants in Beijing history) and the Handsome Café (awful name, but actually a rather decent little bar in that semi-basement space) couldn't survive there very long - and there have been god knows how many other failed ventures there since.  And the Villa suffers acutely from the 'divided space' problem - with three utterly unconnected floors (and two separate outside seating areas, with little or no service): has anyone ever set foot on the upper floor??

And - for a fairly divey bar - it's just a tad expensive. 40 kuai for a Stella??!!

But its biggest problem, as I've said on here often before, is that Luga keeps on failing to commit to the idea of being a sports bar.

On Saturday, I set out to watch the two big games in the English Premiership that day, the Manchester derby followed by Arsenal v Wolves.  Paddy O'Shea's - labouring under the burden of now being the ONLY (half-way) decent sports bar in town, and being the only place able to offer coverage of the Six Nations rugby competition (albeit a crappy picture from a Slingbox feed) - was completely swamped; when it gets that full, it's really not good for business, because it becomes almost impossible to get a drink!  Hence, I was forced to seek out alternatives in Sanlitun... and discovered - surprise, surprise! - that Luga's Villa was still open after all.

The TVs he's got in there aren't very good, and the small wall-projector he was using for the alternate game produced an unfortunately squashed picture, but... at least he was showing two games at once... and there was plenty of room to sit down.  Things went well enough at first (stupendous goal from Loony Rooney!!)... but then, at 11pm, he unaccountably brought a DJ on (someone I know, actually; lovely bloke - but I can't stand the shit he plays!).  The first 15 minutes of 'tune-up' was excruciating torture, with constantly see-sawing volume and the frequent buzz, crackle, and pop of loose wires in the PA.  Once we got into the set proper.... it was even worse.

I only survived - with difficulty - to the end of the second game by relocating upstairs (which, despite being a more obvious 'party' venue than the basement space, was not where they'd chosen to place the DJ; and which was not, at least at first, playing his godawful 'music' at such a high volume), and then by plugging my ears with balls of paper torn from the edge of a serviette.  It's much harder to attend to  the game and to follow what's happening without an audible commentary (or at least a little bit of crowd atmos in the background); it's practically impossible with the distraction of painfully loud music playing over the top of it (they've started doing this at The Den too - why, why, WHY??).

And if this is a ploy to woo the younger drinking crowd, who actually like this kind of 'music' (and aren't so interested in the football) - well, I think it is woefully misguided.  There were a couple of dozen such youngsters upstairs at The Villa on Saturday - but quite a few of them didn't order any drinks, and they all left at around midnight.  There are too many other bars and clubs in that neck of the woods that cater to people who want to dance - Kai at the low end, Lantern at the top, Kokomo in the middle, and more besides.  Luga isn't going to break into that scene.  And if he tries to attract a pre-clubbing crowd in for just one or two drinks on a Saturday night, he's only going to succeed in pissing off the sports fans.

I like Luga - but he's running this place like a concussed beeLuga's Villa, I'm afraid, is DOOMED.

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