Sanlitun Saturday night: Blacks enjoy drinks, play pool, apparently await ban

Black partiers descended on Sanlitun last night to enjoy a bar scene from which the South China Morning Post says they will soon be banned. In an update, SCMP cited another owner yesterday to bolster its claim that Beijing is telling bars to ban blacks and Mongolians during the Olympics. The owner is cited as saying the measures “will all happen in 24 hours.” SCMP ends its update with an attempt to define the word “anticlimactic”:

Tony Perkins, an African-American sports presenter for China Central Television, said he had not experienced any racism during his six months in China while working for the state TV station, but he said he was concerned by the bar owners’ complaints.

“If this is policy, then it is a very bad policy – more so for a country holding an Olympics,” he said.

I don’t know if Tony is a reader, but it might ease his mind to know I talked to three Sanlitun bar owners yesterday who said the police did not tell them to ban blacks. To be fair, SCMP acknowledges the dearth of evidence – and even posits a reason: “Further investigation found that not all bars in the newly revamped area known for its nightlife had been ordered to refuse black customers, suggesting police are targeting specific bars.” Apparently the policy is so secret that the police are keeping it from all but a few bar owners who can be trusted to reveal it to foreign journalists.

Here are my notes from a pub crawl last night that covered Sanlitun north and south. To maintain the sensationalism, I bold the name of each bar where I saw black patrons. (An asterisk denotes a bar in which I looked in but did not stay, mostly because it was too crowded.)

The North Side

Luga’s: Since that two-day shutdown a few weeks back, this place is busy, busy, busy. The staff pumps out comfort food, beer, and margaritas to a ravenous crowd. I see black people eat burritos.

Cheers: Though traffic is lighter than usual, the Xinjiang band rocks the joint as always. Black people play pool.

Kokomo: Partiers are shank to flank on the rooftop and it’s a struggle to reach the bar. Black people enjoy beverages.

The Saddle: The deck holds a good-sized crowd, though there are only a few patrons inside. I see black people upstairs and downstairs, including an acquaintance from the bar business who says the media is calling him with interview requests. (The obvious question: How do you plan to ban yourself?)

Second Floor: There is not one black person to be found! Then again, there are only four patrons. Sample size is too small …

Poachers*: The place seethes with dancers, including… you got it… black people.

Shooters*: The street outside is curb to curb partiers and there is barely breathing room in Shooters. It wins tonight’s “first place I heard ‘Hips Don’t Lie'” award. It ain’t 2008 Sanlitun if you don’t hear Shakira.

The South Side

Nanjie*: What can I say – the partiers are out in force tonight. This place is full and dozens of patrons – including black ones – spill into the street.

Salsa Caribe*: Black people hang out in the entranceway.

The mom-and-pop shop near Caribe *: Black people enjoy beverages (again!)

Tun: The place has a light crowd, but the vibe is OK. It needs to clean the beer lines or change the Stella keg, because my draft is off.

Final results: 10 bars checked, 8 bars with blacks. I also saw black patrons pretty much everywhere I walked. In fact, while I stood with my black friend in front of Tongli Studio, I saw black people go by, which is observing blacks to the second degree. (Unfortunately, my friend wasn’t in the spirit of my research, given that the contestants for a Club China Doll bikini contest were pouring out of the building.)

What I didn’t see, and this is a first, is any lady bar or DVD touts as I walked along that strip of copycat bars on Sanlitun North proper (I usually get more than a dozen “offers”). In fact, the only proposition I received was on the south side, at the corner linking The Rickshaw and The Bookworm, from a stranger – people will ask so, yes, he was black – who approached me and mumbled, “Hey man, do you smoke?” I got a feeling he wasn’t talking about cigarettes.

Finally, if groups are to be banned from the bars during the Olympics, I think patrons should have a say. My vote goes to drunken frat boys wearing backwards baseball caps.

15 thoughts on “Sanlitun Saturday night: Blacks enjoy drinks, play pool, apparently await ban”

  1. Boyce,

    Thanks for the great investigation effort and excellent post! I love the line “Apparently the policy is so secret that the police are keeping it from all but a few bar owners who can be trusted to reveal it to foreign journalists.” Brilliant!

  2. My vote for a group to be banned goes to journalists and reporters who have been sent out here for a few weeks to cover the Olympics. Since they don’t need facts in order to write a story, they certainly don’t need entry into the heart of Beijing. They already know what the story is – who needs research?

  3. Finally, if groups are to be banned from the bars during the Olympics, I think patrons should have a say. My vote goes to drunken frat boys wearing backwards baseball caps.

    Amen to that, brutha!

    btw, I agree, your research is evidently better than that of the whole of the SCMP. scary thought though ;)

  4. This is a trip. I live in Atlanta GA and I just left Beijing this past Friday. To think, I had been talking about how well received we were when we were there. It makes me wonder what the natives were say after they asked to take pictures with us everywhere we went. I always heard that we were not favored in China but, to see it in writing is interesting.

    This falls in line with Sunday 7/13 paper that bans restaurants from serving Dog Meat while the Olympics where in town. That is the sole reason why this story shows its validity.

  5. The Olympics haven’t started yet… and simply denying the ongoing discrimination against black people in all over China won’t help to stop it any more than it has in the U.S.

    Must have been quite a pub crawl. I agree that SCMP was actually quite careful with its allegations. Be that as it may, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’ll be clearer evidence in August.

    Maybe it would be good to interview some of the black people living in Beijing to get a picture of the extent of the ongoing racial discrimination? Or how about asking your Chinese friends what they think about black people?

  6. Very thorough investigation but did the stories in the SCMP not say ‘during’ the Games, rather than ‘right now’, today, this very hour during which you sup and think up sanctimonious comments? The SCMP’s first story was sloppy indeed, and the second much better; one has to wonder at the quality of the editors who allowed this story to appear on Friday, and failing to bollock the reporter for crappy journalism. That it appeared on a feature page deep inside the paper is strange. Surely such a story, if supported by two sources (and we have to believe that these sources are known to the editors given the shock value of the quotes), with a denial and investigation to strike a balance, it would merit page 1 or in the news at least … There is no smoke without fire and that naked racism exists towards a number of ethnic communities is not news, nor is it up for debate. I do hope the SCMP severely ticks off its reporter, Mr Miller, who exposed a degree of laziness or inexperience or naivety, or perhaps a mix of the three. But it is the editors, who we must presume are in Hong Kong, who must stand up and be counted for allowing this first story to go through half baked and cause the paper’s reputation to be questioned and give those in power in Beijing a break in their obvious racist ways. But it is during the Games that we must observe if such a ban, limited or selective or otherwise, is enforced. I can’t believe the SCMP reporter made this story up. He did however fail to investigate it properly. That said, the story is out there, and those in the PSB with crass racial views now know they are like the rest of us, being watched very closely.

  7. Boyce,

    Two bar managers, ones that I’m certain you spoke with, told me that they did indeed sign a pledge saying that they wouldn’t serve blacks. They also admitted that they signed it under coercion and realized that they couldn’t actually enforce it without drawing negative attention from the foreign community. They said the police have yet to be back and speak with them about not following the pledge they signed.

    I wonder if maybe these people didn’t confide in you because they knew they’d end up on your blog 24 hours later. I can’t think of any other explanation for why they’d tell me one thing and you another. Can you?

  8. Mr Boyce,

    It is a bit presumptuous of you to assume that because us bar owners don’t want to risk losing our business because of a quote from you on your blog that this pledge does not exist.

    It is also ridiculous to assume that because black people are still in bars that the SCMP article is fiction.

    I suggest you look a little harder and if you want to know the truth, the pledge is real and the people denying it are terrified of being shut down.

  9. Being an African American living in America and bound for the Beijing games in a few days and the founder of a social site for international Olympic attendees, I have a keen interest in this story.
    Join with me and take a stand with the Chinese motto for the Olympic Games in Beijing “One World One Dream”.
    How do you say “I have a Dream” in Chinese?

    Hugh Browne

  10. So ridiculous… ban the Black & Mongolians??? Only the Americans can think of such a thing! Never ever heard and experienced anything like that in BJ at all. It’s interesting to see how western people react to the Olympic Games in BJ. They just try to find any opportunities to criticize China, and even desperately making things up… Very pathetic!

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