When The Rickshaw picked up a handful of prizes at the then-that’s Beijing (now The Beijinger) bar and clubs awards in 2007, I suggested that a reality TV would be perfect to capture the antics of the three main personalities at the place: (from left to right) Chad lager, Kris Ryan, and Luga. To quote that post:
The Rickshaw’s Chad, Kris and Luge [Luga] need their own reality show. It’d be hard to find three guys who have a better time but differ more in personality and looks. An American, an Aussie and a Chinese – they could be packaged as a young Harry Morgan [later changed to Bruce Willis], the Crocodile Dundee of Beijing and China’s Fonz (heyyy!), teaming up to run a bar with all the craziness that comes from happy hours, drunk patrons and cultural misunderstandings among a diverse clientele. Just stick a few cameras on the first floor, second fl0or and deck, and one in that public bathroom around the side (none in the kitchen - the wings recipe needs protection). Seriously, three fun characters in a funky spot called The Rickshaw in a city with global attention in the run-up to the Olympics – you wouldn’t watch this?
Too bad it didn’t happen. At that time, the empire consisted of The Rickshaw and The Saddle. Since then?
The Rickshaw guys went on to open The Saddle Cantina, then DIY burrito joint Side Saddle, and now a cafe in the Volkswagen building on Sanlitun North.
Luga grabbed hold of The Saddle and turned it into Luga’s, then opened Luga’s Villa, with a bar downstairs and a restaurant upstairs, and will soon expand Lug’as by taking over the apartment above (complete with a balcony).
And Lager left and then managed TUN, which has exploded in popularity due to its Friday ladies night and Tuesday open mic night, among other things, and plans to soon open a new place.
These guys have collectively had a major impact on the Sanlitun bar scene over the past few years and now – or, rather, will soon – account for 7.5 places (I’m giving .5 for Luga’s expansion). About the only Beijing equivalent that comes to mind is how Alameda eventually spun off SALT and Mosto, all good places in their own rights.
By the way, look for The Saddle Cantina to officially open its deck this Thursday with half-price Margaritas and five-kuai beers.