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Sanlitun Houjie Demolished: The End of Beijing Bar Street?

Beijing’s nightlife hotspot Sanlitun bar street is being bricked up. Some are happy with the ‘clean-up’, others mourn the loss of bar street.

Manya Koetse

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As Beijing’s city center is changing with incredible speed, it is now Beijing’s nightlife hotspot Sanlitun bar street that is demolished and bricked up. While Beijing expats might shed a tear over the disappearance of some of their favorite bars, many Weibo netizens are happy with the government’s decision to “clean up” the unpolished hubbub of Beijing nightlife.

Beijing is changing fast – really fast. As parts of the old hutongs are already unrecognizable or in the midst of being bricked up, bulldozers have now reached the area of Sanlitun Houjie / Tongli Studios, better known as the back street of Sanlitun Bar Street.

Sanlitun Bar Street is one of the most famous nightlife areas in Beijing, known for its cheap beers, many bars, restaurants, and street vendors.

Since the Beijing Olympics, the area at large has undergone drastic changes. With the coming of the Taikooli Shopping center in the summer of 2008, the transformation of Sanlitun from a low-key nightlife scene to an upscale shopping street was set in motion.

Bulldozers renovating the Sanlitun street in August of 2016.

For local bar lovers and many expats and students, there was always still the Sanlitun ‘back street’, or houjie, one of the few parts of the area that did not seem to have changed that much over the past decade and was not as polished or expensive as the newer parts of town.

 

“The demolishment of the area is another step in the mission of the city management to gentrify the area.”

 

The ‘rough part’ of Sanlitun was both loved and hated for its street vendors, loud music, 10 RMB beers, beggars, balloon sellers, occasional bar fights, and lively atmosphere.

View on Sanlitun houjie from Taikooli, 2016.

On April 24 the bulldozers and construction workers hit the street to start the demolishment of the street side across from Tongli Studios.

Rumors were going around for weeks that parts of the old bar street would be demolished. According to one of the staff at the old Luga’s bar that What’s on Weibo spoke to, they do plan to reopen again after renovations, but the exact plans of what is happening in the area is yet unclear. Other sources said that the whole side of the street would be closed and simply bricked up.

According to the Beijing Youth newspaper, the demolishment of the area is another step in the mission of the city management to gentrify the area so that houjie would no longer be a “dirty street” (“今起不再有’脏街'”). A total of 33 business will be demolished, among them are several DVD stores, bars, restaurants, shops, and nail salons.

On Chinese social media, the large-scale renovation of Sanlitun is receiving ample attention from various media outlets and netizens. Many Weibo commenters show their support for the latest government move and agree with the renovations, saying that the Beijing bar street needed to be cleaned up.

“This time, I give Beijing full points for this renovation,” one Beijing resident (@小威威的野蛮女友) says on Weibo: “This place was too crowded, too messy, too dirty.” Another commenter agrees: “They will make it pretty again.”

 

“Goodbye to that old Sanlitun dirty alley that now belongs to the memories of our youth.”

 

“The people who say this demolishment is not good obviously do not live in Beijing, haha,” one other person said.

But not everyone agrees. As the city center of Beijing is rapidly undergoing renovations, there are considerably fewer parts of the city that offer a laid-back and unpolished nightlife scene, while fancy bars and expensive dining places are mushrooming everywhere.

“There is a sense of beauty in these places that are are bit messy,” one commenter said: “They are more friendly, they are warmer.” “I agree,” another person says: “From now on, Sanlitun will not be as lively as before.”

“The street may have been somewhat dirty, but I love that kind of feeling,” one local resident (@bulabula安) commented.

There are also many people who say they feel sad over losing their favorite noodle place located across from the Tongli Studios or other popular bars and dining places.

“Goodbye dirty Sanlitun street!”, Beijing musician Liu Dayi writes on Weibo: “I can only say f*ck! Goodbye to that old Sanlitun dirty alley that now belongs to the memories of our youth.”

– By Manya Koetse

©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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  1. Pingback: A Beautiful Essay Critiquing the “Fake Lives” of Beijingers is Blocked After Lighting Up Chinese Social Media (Quartz) • Manya Koetse

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China Digital

Exclusive QR Code-Based Service Under Fire: The 3 Major Downsides to Contactless Ordering

Self-service ordering is the norm in many restaurants across China, but its benefits do not always outweigh the downsides.

Manya Koetse

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QR code-based ordering is the new normal in Chinese restaurants, but contactless ordering also comes with major downsides. In a recent People’s Daily article, consumers’ rights expert Chen Yinjiang argues that contactless ordering can’t be the sole service option offered by businesses.

Along with China’s rapid digitalization, QR code-based ordering has become the norm for many restaurants across the country. Although many see QR code-based self-service – from waiting in line to ordering and paying – as a convenience that also saves the restaurant costs on staff, there are also downsides to these digital developments.

Contactless ordering is not just the new normal in many restaurants, it often also is the only way in which customers can order.

In a recent article published by Chinese state media outlet People’s Daily, the deputy secretary-general of China Consumer Protection Law Society, Chen Yinjiang (陈音江), argues that business owners in China should offer customers the choice, saying: “Consumers have the right to choose whether they want to order by scanning a code or order through a waiter. Businesses can’t just consider the costs without considering the customer experience – especially when they neglect the requirements of elderly consumers.”

Image via http://www.hnntv.cn/

On Chinese social media, the criticism of exclusive QR code-based service in restaurants has become a hot topic of discussion. The hashtag “People’s Daily Discusses QR Code-Based Ordering” (#人民日报谈扫码点餐#) received 280 million views on Weibo on Monday.

Both the People’s Daily article and the online discussions mention the following three major downsides to QR code-based ordering.

 
1. Missing the Communication with the Waiter

One downside to contactless ordering is that customers miss out on the experience of communicating their order directly with the restaurant staff.

One reason why people would prefer to place their order directly with the waiter is that it gives them an opportunity to inquire about the menu, get advice on the best choice to make, and to communicate any special dietary wishes and preferences.

But another reason is simply that talking to restaurant staff is part of the dining out experience, with self-service ordering being a rather bleak substitute for those people who would actually like to have some more human interaction when they go out for food.

“If a restaurant only lets people order through smartphone and don’t offer a menu, the entire sense of ritual [of eating out] is gone,” one person comments, with others agreeing: “Ordering food is part of the dining culture.”

 
2. Leaving the Non-Tech-Savvy Customers Behind

Contactless ordering is also a nuisance to the elderly and non-tech-savvy customers who struggle to scan a QR code and place an order. For them, the process of online ordering is not convenient or fast but actually makes their restaurant experience all the more difficult and complicated.

“We live in an aging society. We really need to have other ways of handling this for the future,” one popular comment on Weibo said.

Other commenters also indicate that even for people who are used to ordering online, the process can be a nuisance. When changing their mind about their order, or accidentally ordering a wrong item, the entire order is gone and the customer needs to start from scratch again. This makes the process far less convenient than ordering with a staff member.

 
3. Privacy and Spam Concerns

There are also those who find that QR-based ordering is an invasion of their privacy. Many restaurants require customers to register or to ‘follow’ them on WeChat or elsewhere before allowing contactless ordering.

This means that customers do not only give away some personal information stored in their app profile, it also means that it is easy for companies to keep on sending promotions and other information to their customers long after they have left their restaurants.

While this might be an efficient marketing strategy for businesses, many people see this as a major disadvantage to QR-based ordering, and this complaint is one of the most-discussed ones on Weibo.

“Contactless ordering is actually a good thing, it is the fact that you need to register or follow the company before you can place an order that’s the problem,” multiple commenters say.

“I just want to order food – why would you need my phone number for that? Why would I need to follow your account for that?”

Many commenters on Weibo indicate that if restaurants only offer QR code-based ordering, they would rather not eat there at all.

Despite the criticism on self-service ordering, it is also praised by many. The general consensus on Weibo seems to be that virtual ordering is great, but should not be the only way to order and that smartphones and tablets should never replace ‘old-fashioned’ menus and waiters.

By Manya Koetse

Featured image via http://dc.wio2o.com/new/diancan.php

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Food & Drinks

Viral Video Exposes Wuhan Canteen Kitchen Food Malpractices

Boots in the food bowl, meat from the floor: this Wuhan college canteen is making a food safety mess.

Manya Koetse

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A video that exposes the poor food hygiene inside the kitchen of a Wuhan college canteen has been making its rounds on Chinese social media these days.

The video shows how a kitchen staff member picks up meat from the floor to put back in the tray, and how another kitchen worker uses rain boots to ‘wash’ vegetables in a big bowl on the ground, while another person is smoking.

The video was reportedly shot by someone visiting the canteen of the Wuhan Donghu University (武汉东湖学院) and was posted on social media on November 7.

According to various news sources, including Toutiao News, the school has confirmed that the video was filmed in their canteen, stating that those responsible for the improper food handling practices have now been fired.

The Wuhan Donghu University also posted a statement on their Weibo account on November 8, saying it will strengthen the supervision of its canteen food handling practices.

“The students at this school will probably vomit once they see this footage,” some commenters on Weibo wrote.

Wuhan Donghu University is an undergraduate private higher education institution established in 2000. The school has approximately 16,000 full-time undergraduate students.

“I’m afraid that this is just the tip of the iceberg,” one popular comment said, receiving over 25,000 likes.

Students from other universities also expressed concerns over the food handling practices in their own canteens, while some said they felt nauseous for having had lunch at the Wuhan canteen in question.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2020 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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