Punch a higher floor? On the upcoming closing of Zeta in Hilton Beijing

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For more than a year, I’ve been hearing that Zeta in the Hilton Beijing will close and be replaced by a restaurant. And it sounds like the end is now a few months away. Given how much the food and beverage scene has grown in the surrounding area, it’s too bad this space can’t be reinvented and somehow become a key part of it.

Entry has always been an issue for Zeta. I doubt many people enjoy going through a somber hotel lobby, up those long marble stairs or the elevators, and through a hall of two to get to the bar, and then, a few hours later, tipsily making the reverse trip.

The thing is, Zeta is almost over the hotel’s entrance, one floor up, and an elevator or stairwell seems a natural way to boost traffic. Just like other hotel guests, customers would arrive at the entrance, but then opt instead for the dedicated elevator, punch the second floor button and be in Zeta in about a minute.

That would give Zeta the feel of a standalone venue, a feature of some of Beijing’s more successful hotel bars, such as Centro, Atmosphere and Xiu. And unlike, say, Centro, Zeta has the added advantage of its own (rather wacky) toilets.

I posted these musings on weixin last night and the responses included “it’s my place”, “it’s a very nice space” and “surprised by how special the space is”. And almost everyone I’ve ever taken to Zeta has been amused by a decor that is now going on eight years. That history might be the problem, namely, that that the age of the bar and its decor might be distracting people from what it’s future might be.

Here’s a question: If a bar exactly like Zeta opened in Beijing today, would the decor work? The past five years have seen a bar scene develop with a heavy focus on earthy” and / or “industrial” designs. Given this, Zeta would be a breath of fresh air, a kind of bright playroom in a bar world mostly illuminated by Edison lights.

I realize an elevator would cost money. And it wouldn’t guarantee success. That would also require dedicating time, money and, most importantly, energy to creating a drink, service and event plan that hits the spot with today’s imbibers. All I’m saying is Zeta is a good space. And a lot has changed since it opened. Maybe the best way ahead is to put less focus on that past and instead consider what needs to be done to make people say Zeta’s time has come.

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