California Grapes in Sanlitun Soho is looking awfully desolate. That photo from last night shows a place that is being cleaned out for renovations or the victim of a massive party where the patrons took home all the booze and furniture or the city’s latest closing. Hmm, I wonder which one it is? The shop, set up by Frank Yglesias, is a tough sell due to its location, its focus on one wine region and possibly maybe issues surrounding the publicly traded company California Grapes International — see more on that here. Sad since I had some good times here while it lasted due to the prices, live music and interesting cast of characters that frequented the place.
Expect Mexican joint Cantina Agave to open on the third floor of Swire Sanlitun Village South about a week after Chinese New Year. Owner Raffe Ibrahamian is putting the finishing touches on the place, which will have a spacious rooftop with bar, seating for about 60 inside and a salsa station with a minimum of eight options plus jalapeno peppers and other toppings. And lots of cocktails and tequilas, including flights. The menus are printed, the kitchen set up, it’s just a matter of finishing the design and getting the tacos flowing.
Meanwhile, neighbor Blue Frog has taken on an investor although founder Bob Boyce will remain as CEO for the foreseeable future to keep things hopping as usual. A more immediate issue is that the original Beijing branch in Sanlitun will undergo some revamping before summer. If the situation here is like that of its fellow third floor Village South neighbors, that revamping will likely involve the upper floor, which is now a no-no for those renewing or signing new leases — see the now one-story spaces that house newcomers Greyhound Cafe and Cantina Agave as examples. That would not be a drag for Blue Frog, which was among the few places that managed to open before the Olympics and helped put the Village on the map.