Den of grieves | Iconic Beijing bar gone two years this week

By Jim Boyce | The Den closed two years ago after a nearly two-decade run as one of Beijing’s best watering holes. It is sorely missed.

The happy hour was top-notch, with many people’s go-to the half-price Guinness. The comfort food ranged from breakfasts served in cast iron skillets (eggs Benedict!) to business lunches (Cobb salad!) to 3 AM feasts (nasi gareng, Cordon Bleu and the heart-stopping platter of deep-fried goodies known as The Den Combo!). The staff faced many unruly drunks but was fair and friendly to those who returned the favor. And the place featured sports viewing, club parties and unparalleled people-watching, notably between 3 AM and 5 AM.

I didn’t write much about The Den after it closed but plan to jot down some anecdotes.

Such as how a friend called me one morning to say he had lost his bag, complete with laptop, iPad, passport and money, during our reckless multi-bar spree the night before. We retraced our steps to The Den. Staff manager Lisa Zhuang greeted us and calmly said she had all of his stuff safe and sound.

Or how during the Olympics, The Den became a headquarters for scalpers. You would see them with hundreds of tickets stacked. They’d often know little about Beijing and would reward assistance, such as where to get a haircut or fix a computer, with tickets.

Or how on Chinese New Year, the staff would set up a dumpling making station so customers, most of them foreigners stuck in town, could get into the spirit of the holiday. It sounds corny but the staff did it to make the customers feel less lonely.

In any case, more anecdotes to come, and more photos besides the 25 posted below. If you want to share your own, please send them to beijingboyce (at) yahoo.com.

Also, Lisa is now at Joe’s Bar & Grill, a newish sports bar on Workers Stadium West. It’s at the northeast corner of that club strip, just across from Legend Beer. I’ve been a half-dozen times and it is one of the nicest additions to the bar scene this year.


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