Bottle shock | Sanlitun bars got shut down last night

Updates | January 18

  • (Note: Like I’m telling people in our Beijing food deals and drink deals group on WeChat, check, check, check before you go. You can do happy hour today at places like Hulu and Moka Bros but best to check, check, check.)
  • All bar and restaurant staff are steadily getting tested for COVID-19. Saw photos on WeChat of staff members lined up at Chaoyang Park, among other test stations, some a bit close together. (Call me crazy but I also half-expected one of the craft breweries to do a popup.) As venues won’t be operating when their staff members are off getting tested or waiting for results, you best check before you go.
  • I’ve seen numerous venues announce they are moving closing time up to 10 PM and I have confirmed that verbally with others. Again, if you’re expecting to stay later, check before you go.
  • From what I gather, places deemed as “bars” are closed, like Paddy O’Shea’s, Mokihi, La Social and Nanjie. But others, which have a heavier food focus, are open, like Mosto, Hulu, Char, Buona Bocca and The Localright after I posted this, The Local put out message that the place is closed until further notice.
  • Speaking of Mokihi, it has bottled cocktails if you fancy some home drinking.

As one person said, “It’s a major blow to an already vulnerable industry.” So true. It felt like many restaurants and bars were returning to speed, after some very tough months, and now this.

[June 16]

“All the bars in Sanlitun are currently being shut down, one by one. We are waiting for the police termination team.”

Until about 7 PM, the most striking thing I had heard about the bar scene yesterday was that one place was no longer allow to play any background music. Huh? Sounded weird but at least the place was open. A few hours later, the authorities turned the volume to 11, sweeping through Sanlitun and closing bars in response to the new outbreak of virus cases.

Messages started popping up on WeChat as the owners and managers of bars like Mokihi, Red Dog and Nanjie let their followers know about the situation.

“According to the rules [for stopping coronavirus], all Sanlitun bars will be suspended from now on, with the reopening times to be announced,” posted one bar. “We’ve decided to suspend business immediately,” wrote another.

It’s often hard to read the tea leaves of the food and beverages scene. For example, earlier this year restaurants in the same area of town had different seating restrictions: some allowed one diner per table, some two and some three. Why? How do the rules work!?

So, reading messages last night, I wondered what “Sanlitun” meant? Did it include bars on or close to Sanlitun South? How about near Gongti? Or Dongzhimen?

And what did “bar’ mean? The menu is focused on alcohol? What about spots that people often go to just to drink but that also have a food menu?

Below, I’ve listed what I heard from some bar people.

Short version: the closings hit straight-up bars rather than restaurants / bars and affected not just Sanlitun proper but at least some bars in the surrounding area. And no one has a reopening date. The hope is a fast campaign to check the safety of the bars — several managers posted that all staff require nucleic acid tests. Also, numerous places still open said they are moving closing hours earlier to 9 PM or 10 PM.


1 “All the bars in Sanlitun are currently being shut down, one by one. We are waiting for the police termination team.” Shortly after this, I received a second message. “[We have been] shut down until further notice.”

2 “We’re not open. The authorities told us this evening to not open today.” How long? “We don’t know. Maybe two or three days. They are checking all the bars and restaurants.”

3 “The government told us all of the bars in Sanlitun have to close today or tomorrow, even maybe some bars / restaurants [venues that serve as both]. We already closed and don’t know when we can reopen.”

4 “We just got notice this afternoon, they told us all the bars in Sanlitun have to close.”

5 “We’ve been told to close our bar until further notice.”

6 “We are still open. But have to close at 10 PM.”

7 “We are closing earlier at night to be on the safe side.”

8 “Bars and restaurants [those places that serve both roles] will probably be open but will need to close by 10 PM.”

That sample covers places from Sanlitun Courtyard to Xindong Road to closer to Dongzhimen, such as Paddy O’Shea’s, which got shut down just after 11 PM.

What a drastic change from Friday night when, as posted here, I had my most “normal” night out since mid-January and felt more were ahead. Suffice it to say, those heading to Sanlitun to eat and drink should check to see if their destination is open.

Finally, this is especially bad news for those bars that weathered months of being closed or of staying open but with low revenue, that were finally seeing better days. I hope this new wave of measures finishes soon, and that the positive effect is to show consumers which venues are safe and, in turn, keep them filling seats.

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