Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The price issue

I don't want to pay more than 30 kuai for a drink, ever.

Well, unless it's a premium spirit, or a cocktail, or a very generous measure....

But, basically, I don't want to pay more than 30 kuai.  That's where the serious price resistance sets in.

I mean, Christ, that's nearly £3 back home.  I don't think we're yet quite paying that much for a single measure of booze in the old country; and only a little more - in London - for a pint of draught.  OK, so, maybe a few premium brews are getting up towards £4 now.  But that's the UK; that's London.  There's no way drinks in Beijing should be anything like as expensive as they are in the West.

Really, I don't even want to pay 30 kuai.  My gut feeling is that - in this town - a standard spirit or mixed drink shouldn't really be more than 20 or 25 kuai; or an imported beer in a 330ml bottle, come to that.  And a stubbie of Tsingtao - or even of the rather better Harbin or Yanjing - NEVER ought to be more than 15 kuai.

And yet, a lot of places have inched up their prices in the last year or so, are now starting to charge 20 or even 25 kuai for local beers, and 30 or 35 kuai for other basic drinks.... reaching the point where I think very seriously about stopping drinking.  Because I just can't afford it any more.

Take Stella - my principal poison over the past three years.  OK, it's a premium brew, and it has to be imported.  But back in the UK, most of the cost comes from punitive government taxation.  How on earth can it be as expensive here as it is there?  Or anywhere near??  I was complaining the other day that Luga's Villa now charges a whopping 40 kuai for its Stella (which is not, on the whole, well kept); and a considerably less-than-'happy' 30 kuai even during its 'happy hour'.  Nearby competitor 1st Floor charges a slightly less wince-making 35 kuai, but loses brownie points by only knocking a miserly 5 kuai off during 'happy hour'.  I haven't been to The Tree or Nearby The Tree in quite a while, but I think it's 35 kuai there as well.  Oh, I sigh for that great deal they had a couple of years ago at the old Stumble Inn: that 'loyalty card' promotion where, with the progressive discount/every fourth beer FREE, your Stellas were effectively only 22.5 kuai each.  It just goes to show that you can sell the stuff more cheaply and still turn a profit.  My instincts are that Stella ought to be 30 kuai on a regular tariff and 20 on 'happy hour'.  I DO NOT want to be paying 35; and I am certainly not going to pay 40!

Yes, yes, rents are getting crazy in Beijing these days.  But most other costs are negligible (staff?  they work for kibble!); and wholesale prices for booze, even premium imports, are mostly pretty reasonable.  Though we've seen a worrying surge of inflation in the last few years, the cost of living in Beijing is still, for most things, only 20 or 25% of what it would be in the UK - at the very most.  For many things - public transport, locally produced food, a meal in a grungy neighbourhood restaurant - it's only  one tenth or one twentieth as expensive.  It simply does not compute that we should be paying as much - or more - for our booze here in Beijing as we would back home.  (I, for one, am not earning nearly as much money here as I would hope to back home.)

I suspect this unreasonable level of pricing is driven largely by inflated rents (rather than the insane greed of bar owners or drink distributors).  I think it's time to MAKE A STAND.  If we start refusing to pay these prices, staying away from bars, drinking only (as we used to, in the good old days) in restaurants.... maybe bar owners would soon feel the pinch.... and would have to start standing up to their landlords, demanding rent cuts.  This is where we burst Beijing's property bubble!  I have my hat pin at the ready....


Euchrid said...

12.5RMB for a Stella at Flamme during happy hour, every day from 3pm-8pm! Can't beat that! And (just under) a pint of Guinness at Union for 30RMB during happy hour.

Flamme's cocktails are amazing for 25RMB during happy hour - Paul mixes a mean drink!!

Froog said...

Oh, believe me, I know all about Flamme.

It's a pity that we are being corralled into drinking only during 'happy hour' promotions.... and having to come home at 8pm or 9pm!!