Thursday, May 19, 2011

NOT The Beijinger Bar Awards

I'm hoping to get in an hour or two of free drinking (and find out where they're hiding the lucky bags this time!) at The Beijinger Bar & Club Awards tonight.

As I expounded last week, I think this awards event has become painfully unwieldy, with a plethora of fatuous categories; and, worse, the counter-productive shortlisting process and the ill thought-out category definitions render the results limited, unrepresentative, valueless.

[I'll have even more on this shortly. The actual results can be found here. And respect to essential bar-blogger Beijing Boyce for producing a very well-balanced - and impressively succinct - summary of his own preferences in the field. And a week later, the City Weekend readers' poll came up with some rather more rational winners.]

Anyway, if I ruled the world, here's who would win.....

Best Hidden Gem  -  Tao Yao
(In the frame: Fu, Tree House, Zui Yuefang, Contempio, Great Leap Brewery)
I fear the introduction of the largely - or wholly?! - overlapping 'Best Hutong Bar' category this year may cause some muddle in the voting for this award. Also, I tend to feel that anything that's reasonably well established can't really be called 'hidden' any more: there's nothing particularly hard to find about Jianghu or El Nido or MaoMaoChong, or even Amilal, other than that they're a bit off the beaten track for eastsiders; and most people surely know where they are by now.

Tao Yao's been getting some very good buzz over the last year from its Friday night all-you-can-drink "Yak tipping" parties.

In the real awards, this is a two-way fight between MaoMaoChong and Great Leap Brewery; I think MMC will edge it. [Ooh, I forgot about actual winner, Twilight. Not so much 'hidden' as annoyingly hard to find and in a really SHIT location. At least my beloved 12 Square Metres got the consolation prize of an 'Outstanding Bar' award in this category - although it's hard to see what's so 'hidden' about being just off a main road, on the busiest foot-traffic street in the city, next door to an under-construction subway station.]

Best Hutong Bar - Amilal
(In the frame:  El Nido, Jianghu, Great Leap Brewery, MaoMaoChong, Contempio)
I'd dispense with this category as superfluous (and too hard to define); but if we're going to have it... it's really a no-contest: Amilal is hands-down the best hutong bar ever. However, El Nido has been a marvellous addition to the scene this past year, and its newness will probably attract more voters (although, again, MaoMaoChong and Great Leap Brewery will be running it close). [Congrats to Stephen and Stephanie at MaoMaoChong, but.... Amilal and El Nido weren't nominated in this category???]

Best Lounge Club - I'm not qualified to venture an opinion here; I'd torch them all.
I'm not even sure if The Beijinger has a category for this; I think not. If there were such an award, I'd guess Kokomo would be a likely frontrunner, although perennial 'favourite' Suzie Wong's would probably prevail. [Hm, they don't actually have this category - but Xiu won as 'Best Nightclub'?! I wouldn't call it a nightclub!!]

Best Wine Bar - again, not really my thing.
However, I do like Palette Vino, and would be happy to see that pick up the prize. [No love for Palette Vino?? No PR budget!!]

Best Cocktail Bar  -  Flamme
(In the frame: Twilight, George's, Migas, Q Bar, MaoMaoChong)
This is a very tightly contested category (and I omit Mesh, which has a lot of PR push behind it, and Apothecary, which is just too darned expensive and snooty), very hard to call. There's a strong upsurge of grassroots support for MaoMaoChong, and I suspect they might sneak it - go, Stephen and Stephanie! [Flamme didn't even pick up an 'Outstanding' mention in either of the cocktail categories?!]

Best Dance Club  -  Salsa Caribe
(In the frame: Mix, Vics, Alfa, Kai Club, Maggie's [no, really], ChocolatePropaganda, School, House)
Again, not really my scene - but I note that these places all consistently enjoy good word-of-mouth amongst the younger set. Salsa Caribe seems to be the clear winner for people who like actual dancing, rather than just writhing around to brain-pulping electronica; however, its constituency is primarily non-English speaking, so it is likely to be completely overlooked by voters in this poll. House seems to have made the biggest impact of the new arrivals, but is perhaps just a bit too new to sweep The Beijinger vote.

Best Hotel Bar  -  Touch (Westin Chaoyang)
(In the frame: Mix, Scarlett, Redmoon, Xiu, Atmosphere)
I find it curious that the Westin Chaoyang can produce not one but two really good hotel bars, while so much of the rest of the city struggles abysmally in this area. We might well have a Worst category under this heading, with Flames, Centro and Zeta and a few others duking it out.

I have no time for The Opposite House, but its big advertising spend and its prominent location slap bang in the middle of Sanlitun ensure that its two bars - Mesh and Punk - have the highest profile amongst The Beijinger's readership. Punk, because of its DJ events, probably enjoys more of a laowai following; Mesh, it seems to me, primarily draws a Chinese professional crowd. Then again, perhaps one of the uber-swanky places like Xiu will come out on top; people who've never even been there might vote for that!

Best Student Bar  -  Laowai's
(In the frame: Bla Bla BarLushHelen's CaféPyro Pizza, Old Bike Café)
Of course, the real winner ought to be the open-air beer garden on BLCU campus (or the one by Wudaokou station - although that seems to be having some problems about reopening this year), but.... The Beijinger category is, I think, styled 'Best Student Hangout', opening it up to places that are really more cafés, coffee shops or restaurants (I voted for Bridge Café in the Huaqing Jiayuan). I suspect it will come down to a two-horse race between the reliable old stagers Lush and Propaganda (although I wonder how Lush is holding up against the new competition in Wudaokou this year; it is bothersomely expensive for a student haunt).

Best Live Music Venue  -  Jianghu
(In the frame: VA Bar, East Shore Live Jazz, Club 13, What Bar, MAO Live House, D-22, Jiangjinjiu, Salud, Hot Cat Club, Zui Yuefang)
I omit 2 Kolegas, because I think they had a really miserable year last year (especially compared to their fairly consistent wonderfulness in the past); they tried out new speaker stacks that were way too loud for the venue, and almost completely blocked the view of the stage - ridiculous. They're getting back to winning ways now, thank heavens. I also omit Mako Live House, The One, and Tango/Star because they're occasional special event venues rather than regularly opening bars. And I omit Yugong Yishan because... it's CRAP.

What will actually win: Yugong Yishan - because it's the only place with the space and the budget to regularly attract visiting foreign acts, and is thus the only music venue that most occasional laowai gig-goers have heard of.

Best Sports Bar - NO AWARD
(Nominally in the frame [but they're all rubbish]: The Den, The Pavillion, The Irish Volunteer, Paddy O'Shea's, Luga's Villa, The Goose & Duck)
A pitifully short list! The winner will be.... Paddy O'Shea's - the least worst of a very, very bad lot.

Best New Bar  -  El Nido
(In the frame: George's, MaoMaoChong, Laowai's, 1st Floor, ContempioGreat Leap Brewery)
I believe El Nido has been excluded from this category by The Beijinger (possibly my fault: it was included in the nominations stage, but I pointed out that it opened three months before the supposed mid-summer cut-off point; although, most of the other candidates are similarly ineligible, if the rules were being strictly applied). I'd like to see George's win this one, although I suspect 1st Floor will sneak it. [El Nido, MaoMaoChong, and 1st Floor - though they all opened last year - were all deemed too old for eligibility in this category by The Beijinger... leaving the field relatively clear for Shitbox of the Year, Stumble Inn. That was just gobsmacking. Even folks who know and like the people who run that place were rolling their eyes in disbelief and muttering Who the f*** "votes" for these things??]

Best Bar  -  Salud
(In the frame:  The Tree, Nearby The Tree, Amilal, El Nido, 12 Square Metres, The Brick, NashvilleFubar)
I would dub the category something like 'Best Drinking Bar', to address the shocking oversight that there is no category in these awards for a bar that is just a bar (and so, bar bars get almost completely overlooked, in the shortlisting, nominating, and voting). It's absurd to try and compare nightclubs with cocktail bars and so on; and, in practice, it's extremely unlikely that any of these more specialised types of bars - anything other than maybe a 'Sports Bar' or a 'Live Music Venue' - would attract as large a following as a place that is primarily simply a boozer. The omission of Salud year after year is a damning indictment of how Anglophone-centric, US-centric, eastside-centric The Beijinger's Awards have become; they have almost no relevance any more to those of us who live inside the 2nd Ringroad, or those of us who live on a relatively modest budget.

What will actually win:  Paddy O'Shea's, of course - for want of any real competition in The Beijinger's bizarre shortlist of nominations. [Well, I got caught out on that one. I failed to take into account the 'We have the attention span of goldfish, we don't take any notice of anything that's been established on the scene for more than a year' factor working against poor old Paddy's. And I wouldn't have credited that the ho-hum 1st Floor would muster any significant following. I'm really not convinced that it does...]

All so very predictable. And more than a tad depressing. But everyone will be there. And there's free booze!!!

[And just in passing... they're holding the Awards Ceremony on a Thursday this year??!!  What the...??? Obviously, people in the F&B industry find it hard to take time off from their work; and events of this kind are traditionally scheduled on a Monday. Sunday or Tuesday might conceivably work instead. But the second half of the week is a definite no-no. Thursday is the beginning of the weekend, for gawd's sake! A lot of the folks attending tonight - prize-winners, hecklers, gawkers or whatever - will be dashing off early to attend to their venues. I rather fear that a fair few won't be able to afford the time to come at all. What is The Beijinger playing at?]

No comments: