Thursday, August 25, 2011

The bar that isn't

Last week, I was visiting friends in Dawu, a county town in northern Hubei province. The place is fairly small (by Chinese standards), with a population of, I would guess, no more than 500,000 - though it's expanding rapidly. And it's still mercifully undeveloped - no sign of a McDonald's or a Starbucks there yet (although they do have the nicest supermarket I've encountered anywhere in China: a local Carrefour knock-off that is heaps better!).

It was not the kind of place where I would expect to find a 'Western' bar, either. And yet... just a few doors down from the apartment where I was staying, I happened upon this. It does look very like a Western-style bar, doesn't it?

Intrigued I was. Alas, the place was not open for business. And it gave the appearance of never having been open for business. (Mary Celeste enterprises, seemingly all ready to go but never in fact opening their doors, are a fairly common quirk of China's sui generis economy: there was a dormant Popeyes chicken outlet on Wangfujing for several months when I first got here 10 years ago - to my knowledge, the franchise has still not opened anywhere in China.) And in any case, it was only the reception area for what purported to be a karaoke parlour. The 'bar' niche in Dawu is still waiting to be filled.

On the outskirts of town, there is a small man-made lake. My Chinese friend is the owner of a quaint little courtyard house overlooking it. There is, at present, a vacant strip of land, 15 or 20 yards wide, between it and the lake. This, I feel, would make a very nice spot for a small terrace bar - just a few tables and umbrellas, and a lot of anti-mosquito measures. (Ominous rumours abound of property developers being likely to claim the area shortly, to start building high-rise apartments right up to the very edge of the lake. My ruthlessly pragmatic friend bought her property there largely for this reason, anticipating the chance to become a 'nail-house' and re-sell for a quick profit to an eager developer.) One of the neighbours has already done something similar with the lakeview sofa below... although, clearly, it lacks such refinements as mosquito-zappers, sunshades, waitress service... or a regular cleanup.

I sense there could be an opportunity here...


Anonymous said...

the Popeyes was open for a number of years, you probably came after it closed down and before a new business took over.

Froog said...


I had thought I remembered it being fitted out. And it then languished - fully furnished and equipped - for the better part of a year.

I can see how the KFC boys might use their guanxi with the government to prevent a superior competitor from opening up; but it's harder to understand why the place would close down after being in operation in a prime location "for a number of years". Was it not successful??

Froog said...

Popeyes was a digression, anyway.

I want to open a lakefront bar in a hick town, dammit! Who'll put up the money for it??