At the risk of irking some members of the quarter-century Old-China-Hand been-here-longer-and-know-more-than-you crew, I’m going to refer to Frank’s Place as the first standalone bar of Beijing’s modern era. And say that I was a bit gutted to find this place–which opened 25 years ago just a hop, skip and jump from Workers Stadium before relocating to Lido–gutted. I heard a few weeks ago the place had closed but only managed to get there on Sunday and found the sign gone, the deck empty and the interior littered with rubble. Word is this space might reopen as a reinvigorated Frank’s–it’s a wait-and-see situation.
Meanwhile, John Harkness, who has run the place in recent years and is well-known to veterans for his Goose ‘n’ Duck projects, has just taken over the spacious second-floor lobby bar in Crowne Plaza Lido and renamed it Upper Duck. Not surprisingly, it has sporty features, including a pool table and three dart boards, as well as a stage. Redecorating is to come, thus the place is in soft-open mode, but things should be all spiffy in a month or so.
Meanwhile, The Hockey Bar, sibling / next door to The Irish Volunteer, is converting it’s back area to a darts room, Eudora Station, which had a good reggae band on the weekend, remains one of those places that doesn’t seem to get mentioned much but draws a steady crowd, and Park Square, well, seeing it reminded me how long it has been since I spent quality time in Lido and that I need to book a date soon.
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Jim, the adage that the only thing permanent in Beijing is change (excepting, of course, mind-numbing and productivity-demolishing pervasive censorship) applies but WHAT THE WHAT?!? Frank’s Place is closed?
I’m shocked and saddened. My own shared-with-Frank’s Beijing history isn’t quite the quarter century (you and I are rough contemporaries), but it is long, deep and meaningful.
Firstly, I enjoyed (as many did) about a billion long cold ones at Frank’s, starting out at the location (#2?) by the Friendship Store, then moving onto Lido. In my years working alongside my Austcham mates, we ran Kooka at Lido Franks a ton of times, as well as doing special events, which were always wonderful. The commute from Guomao to Lidu after work on Friday was hellish, of course, but once in the leafy nabe, Frank’s was among Beijing’s most perfect oases.
I’ve entertained hundreds of clients at Frank’s over the years, and I mostly recall the awesome staff, delicious sandwiches, and excellent beverage selection.
Then there was the Global Financial Crisis of late ’08. The weeks following the crash were scary for me and my crew — we lost 80% of our retainer business almost overnight — and within a few months we had increasingly fewer options. I’m struggling to remember the name of the bar’s owner at the time (and I feel awful for not being able to) but he was such a boss, offering me and my team of 20 free office accommodation in the basement of Frank’s Place. Sure, it was full of event furniture, but we made space and his generosity directly contributed to saving our business while we re-stabilized within the new recession economy.
Vale, Frank’s Place, if you’re gone for good, but wishing you the very best if you’re merely reinventing and improving yourself again.
Simon, Allegravita (we used to be called Illuminant; now based in NYC but I commute to Beijing pretty much monthly)