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?