D Lounge: The closed-door policy of a Beijing bar

d lounge photo
Do you have reservations? (City Weekend)

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A growing pile of emails, SMSs, and comments from readers who cite trouble getting into D Lounge – or trouble getting reasonable service if they do get in. A reminder of this recently when I visited D, joined a table of acquaintances, and spent the first ten minutes listening as they complained of what they considered shabby service at the door and then on the floor. Although they liked the physical space – and dropped, based on what I saw other tables ordering, the most money in the place – it didn’t sound like they would return.

A few days later, after an enjoyable night at Q Bar with Mr Hao and Ms Hao, we hemmed and hawed as we walked to Sanlitun North and, because it was bloody cold, decided to go to D for a drink. As we entered the hallway, a group of eight people left. We walked down the hall and approached the entrance, where two staff members – a man and a woman – drew a rope across it.

Did we have reservations? No. Did we have friends inside? Maybe, I won’t know until I get in. We were then told the place was full. Ms Hao asked if it was a private party. The woman said no. It looked like we were out of luck. Then I mentioned I did know someone inside: Warren, the manager, who stood, with his back turned, talking to someone a few meters away. The staff changed its attitude. The woman at the door ineptly tried to get his attention as more people left. Finding the situation tiresome and deciding I wanted to spend my night and money somewhere else, we left.

Warren caught up to us in the entry hall and asked what was the matter. I simply said, “I don’t like the door policy.” As we stood outside and decided where to go, Warren emerged. I repeated my remark. He said the place was full, that it could only hold 180 people. I said I found that strange since we had seen many people leaving. I added that readers had told me they were turned away even when the place was near-empty. He replied that people needed to RSVP at D Lounge. I said that I, as well as my friends, had walked in often without doing so. He didn’t have a response.

I added that he runs the risk of attracting a fickle crowd liable to jump to the next “flavor of the season” and that D Lounge is turning off patrons who could help sustain it in the long run. Then we left.

Could we have gotten in? Yes. Would we have been happy? No. I like the layout and decor and the atmosphere on slow nights, with music kept low enough that you can talk. The drinks are decent, though nothing special given the price. But the floor service is below average (I almost always sit at the bar), acquaintances complain that the place has a “musty” aroma, and the door policy – or at least its execution – seems a bit arbitrary. For all the talk of raising standards in Beijing, this place is symbolic of a focus on excellent hardware and faulty software.

By the way, those long-time Beijing residents that lament this kind of thing might find it interesting that the backer of D Lounge is also behind Jazz-Ya, one of the longest-standing and most inclusive spots in Beijing. I wonder if that place will also soon have a door policy?

7 thoughts on “D Lounge: The closed-door policy of a Beijing bar”

  1. Team D Lounge need to decide what they want to be- either a private members club or a regular bar. Cant be both. Being exclusive doesnt work when its applied indiscriminately: nobody wants to get all dressed up to make sure they get in and then dont. thats an experience that nobody wants (or forgets)

    Its a poorly thought out strategy that is being clumsily
    executed resulting in the wrong kind of publicity. Mix in a rap for patchy service and its a cocktail that also goes down the wrong way for the serious money flasher crowd (they so dearly covet)

    Sort it out.

  2. Why don’t they simply shift to a dress code policy, like the one they have at Suzzie Wongs. That would filter out the unwanted clients.

    Want more? Give the regulars (or people you want to become regulars) a VIP card, and apply a door charge for people without it.

    Still too many people? hehe, daaaamn, you are lucky! :) go open another bar immediately!

    Having a bouncer is not bad, but hardly necessary in Beijing, and I believe the “gorilla” at the door should be visible, but not intimidating. He should be polite and professional, not scary. (a protective big brother attitude). Just so that the customers feel safe.

    I think D lounge is on a fast track of being labeled as “pretentious & posh”, a sort of thing that would work in Shanghai, but might not work in Beijing. Let’s wait and see.

    I personally like the place, and I hope it works out for them.

    Jay

  3. @ dj chunky and jay man,

    Good points all. And that’s what I meant about the spot being better in terms of hardware (decor, layout, etc) than software (lacking a consistent door policy, needing decent service on the floor, etc).

    Cheers, boyce

  4. I share all those point of view. Also I can tell that Warren, is too freshly arrived in Beiijing and doesn’t catch the spirit of the City yet.

    For me he’s a bit too cold, and not really a people person, for the relational. When we went there with my partner Ariel, to talk to him about the Absolut Cocktail Competition he barely try to listen what it was about or understand anything. Just looked at us with a down look at us. Result almost every best bartenders of the best venues in the cities will take part in the competition and they miss the opportunity to promote themselves in a big event like this.

    I think, after few months, the management will change, and become chinese management as usual. Then the problem at the door might change.

    It’s the same problem at Xiu, the door staff is so rude reminds me a certain China Doll….
    I think every (big) new place that opens suffers of some doors problems. Such a shame as the venue is really nice in D.Lounge.

    Let’s see how it evoluates.

  5. Definitely not impressed with Management. Warren seems purposefully disinterested in customers or quality. Service is crap. Drinks are below average. The space is incredible, and I wish it was worth going, but I’m over it. Especially if it’s a crap shoot at the door. I spend good money, and am a loyal customer if you give me the chance, but I won’t be supporting D’s cause. Think its time for a Qbar resurgence.

  6. thanks Jim for raising this one, as i think D Lounge risks being Beijing’s biggest let-down in ages…I mean, the place looks, sounds, even feels, SO good, but it seems determined to pursue a short-term strategy (not investing in service, appearing to favour a crowd that buys expensive drinks but only stays for an hour at the expense of the crowd that will settle in for the night and really contribute to the atmosphere, etc etc). Love your observation of the manager with his back to the door….have had the same experience several times, and somehow it sums it up perfectly.

  7. i love this blog!

    brilliant. people get so emo about this kind of rejection. who wants another “regular” bar anyway? i’m all for upping the anti on the bar scene in whatever way it manifests itself.

    every single time i’ve been there i’ve been able to get in just fine. i’m not particularly hot, i don’t know anyone that works there and i’m a very casual dresser. you either got it, or you don’t people. and if you do, you don’t sweat the small stuff.

    party on.

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