About 18 months ago, a number of fun places opened in the area just southeast of the former Sanlitun beer mug. You could spend a night popping into The Bookworm (brand-spanking new), Modern Nomads (Mongolian vodka martinis and throat singing), Midnight (excellent drinks by Austin, George and Echo) and Browns (a weekend madhouse) as well as stalwarts like Rock n’ Roll, Salsa Caribe and First Cafe. Even better, the area was largely devoid of the DVD hawkers, lady bar touts and beggars that plague its northern sibling.
Well, three of the four are closed, arguably for very different reasons. Perhaps this was foreshadowed when work began nearby on that huge building, which had remained dormant for years, and the Beijing beer mug (a tourist beacon if there ever was one) and First Café (still my favorite bar ever in Beijing) got chai’d.
Modern Nomads, while having a unique angle, went down swinging, though only a few customers were around to watch the spectacle. Midnight had no problem drawing crowds, but friction between the bartenders and owner – including a well-known story in which one of the latter broke a bottle over the head of one of the former’s cronies - meant a parting of the ways and the eventual cob-webbing of the place. And more recently, Browns, also once a major draw, finally went out with a whimper after more than a year of poor marketing. Only The Bookworm remains and while service can be spotty the place does offer a good combination of books, seminars and beverages (a nice single malt collection has it).
In the meantime, things keep changing. The Rickshaw took over the Midnight spot a few months ago and has been a success. The new Nanjie will soon open in the Modern Nomads spot (which had been Zone de Confort before that). And Browns is… empty… though I doubt it will be so for long.
I’m not sure what my point is except I was thinking about this as I recently wandered along the remains of what once had been old Sanlitun South Street, which was razed thirty months ago for redevelopment and now is a brand, new… uh… field full of unplanned two-meter trees covering rubble. Makes you think they might have just waited on the whole chai thing, doesn’t it?
Way past last call: Sanlitun South bar street was chai’d over two
years ago, but redevelopment has yet to begin, with the area now
covered by two-meter high pine trees (which I’ll show just as soon
as I figure out how to download photos from my fancy K-Touch