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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 Food & Drinks

Famous Goubuli Restaurant Calls Police for Getting Roasted Online, Gets Kicked Out of Franchise Group

Goubuli Wangfujing shows how NOT to address a social media crisis.

Manya Koetse

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The well-known Goubuli Wangfujing restaurant just got a bit more famous this week. The branch, which specializes in steamed buns, is now not just known as one of Beijing’s worst-rated restaurants, but also as a business that shot itself in the foot by handling a social media crisis the wrong way.

The famous Wangfujing main branch of Goubuli Steamed Buns (狗不理包子) is caught up in a social media storm since responding to a blogger’s negative video of their restaurant by contacting the police.

The video, Goubuli’s response to it, and the following consequences have hit the top trending topic lists on Weibo today.

Goubuli, sometimes transcribed as Go Believe, is a well-known franchise brand of steamed stuffed buns (baozi) from Tianjin that was founded in 1858. The brand now has more than 80 restaurants in mainland China, 12 of them in Beijing. Since Wangfujing is one of Beijing’s most famous streets, the Wangfujing branch is popular with both foreign and Chinese visitors.

 

Gu Yue’s “Visiting the Worst-Rated Restaurant” Video

 

The social media storm started on September 8, when Weibo blogger Gu Yue (谷岳) posted a video titled “Visiting the Worst-Rated Restaurant” (“探访评分最差餐厅”). Gu Yue is a travel blogger with over 1,7 million fans on Weibo.

Gu Yue in front of Gubouli.

In the video, Gu Yue starts by explaining he chose to visit Gubouli after searching for the restaurant that receives the lowest ratings in the Beijing Wangfujing and Dongdan areas on the super-popular Chinese mobile food app Dianping.

The blogger found that, out of the 1299 listed restaurants in the area, Wangfujing Goubuli Baozi was the worst-rated place. Ironically, the brand’s name Gǒubùlǐ (狗不理) literally means ‘dogs don’t pay attention,’ which makes the name ‘Goubuli Baozi’ sound like a place with stuffed buns that even dogs would not eat.

Complaining about the service, prices, and quality of food, many Dianping users rated the restaurant with just one out of five stars.

Gu Yue then sets out to visit the restaurant himself to see if Gubouli on Wangfujing really is as bad as Dianping users say. He orders some steamed braised pork dumplings, 60 yuan ($8.7) for 8, and regular pork dumplings, 38 yuan ($5.5) for 8.

The blogger concludes that Gubouli’s dumplings are not worth the money: the dumplings are greasy, the dough is too sticky, and they do not have enough filling. Gu Yue’s video also suggests that the restaurant’s hygienic standards are not up to par, with loud coughing coming from the kitchen.

Gu Yue’s video received over 97,000 likes and thousands of responses on Weibo, with many fans praising the idea of the blogger checking out the worst-rated restaurants.

 

Goubuli’s Reaction Starts a Social Media Storm

 

The Wangfujing branch of Goubuli did not appreciate Gu Yue’s video.

In an online statement on September 11, the branch accused the blogger of spreading lies about their restaurant and harming their reputation, and demanded a public apology.

Goubuli Wangfujing called the video “vicious slander” and stated they had contacted the police in relation to the matter.

The hashtag “Wangfujing Goubuli Responds to Netizen’s Negative Video” (#王府井狗不理回应网友差评视频#) immediately went viral on Weibo, attracting some 430 million views.

Many Weibo users were outraged about the way the Goubuli branch handled the situation. “Aren’t we even allowed to say if something is tasty or not?!” many commenters wondered, with others writing: “You are harming your own reputation!”

“Let’s call the police over the quality of your food,” others suggested.

There were also many netizens who commented that some Chinese Time-Honored brands, such as Goubuli, often only survive because of their history and fame rather than actually delivering good quality to their customers.

Following the major online backlash on its statement, the restaurant soon removed their post again. But the social media storm did not end there.

On September 15, the Goubuli Group issued a statement saying that it would directly terminate its franchise cooperation with the Goubuli Wangfujing branch over the incident.

With over 280 million views on its hashtag page (#狗不理解除与王府井店加盟方合作#), news of the franchise termination blew up on Weibo.

According to the latest Weibo reports on September 15, the Wangfujing Goubuli branch was closed for business on Tuesday (#狗不理包子王府井店门店关闭#).

“This is the power of clout,” one person comments: “If it were not for the [Goubuli] restaurant’s flawed marketing department, this would not have led to their closure.”

“The restaurant has brought this on themselves. There’s nothing wrong with posting a bad review.”

Another person comments: “This is the first time I’ve seen a marketing department making something big out of something small, leading to their own closing.”

Meanwhile, blogger Gu Yue says that he was not contacted by Goubuli, nor by the police. The social media controversy has only made him more popular.

“Gue Yue single-handedly crushed this restaurant,” some say, appreciating how social media has increased the power of Chinese consumers to make or break a business.

 
Also read: Overview of the Dolce&Gabbana China Marketing Disaster Through Weibo Hashtags
 

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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China Food & Drinks

Tianjin Restaurant Introduces “Meal Boxes for Women”

The special lunch boxes for women were introduced after female customers had too much leftover rice.

Manya Koetse

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China’s anti food waste campaign, that was launched earlier this month, is still in full swing and noticeable on China’s social media where new iniatives to curb the problem of food loss are discussed every single day.

Today, the hashtag “Tianjin Restaurant Launches Special Female Meal Boxes” (#天津一饭店推出女版盒饭#) went trending with some 130 million views on Weibo, with many discussions on the phenomenon of gender-specific portions. The restaurant claims its special ‘female lunch boxes’ are just “more suitable for women.”

According to Tonight News Paper (今晚报), the only difference their reporter found between the “meals for women” and the regular meals, is the amount of rice served. Instead of 275 grams of rice, the ‘female edition’ of the restaurant’s meals contain 225 grams of rice.

The restaurant, located on Shuangfeng Road, decided to introduce special female lunch boxes after discovering that the female diners of the offices they serve usually leave behind much more rice than their male customers.

The restaurant now claims they expect to save approximately 10,000 kilograms of rice on an annual basis by serving their meals based on gender.

On Chinese social media, the initiative was heavily criticized. Weibo netizens wondered why the restaurant would not just offer “bigger” and “smaller” lunch boxes instead of introducing special meals based on gender.

“There are also women who like to eat more, what’s so difficult about changing your meals to ‘big’ and ‘small’ size?”, a typical comment said: “Some women eat a lot, some men don’t.”

Many people called the special meals for women sex discrimination and also wanted to know if there was a difference in price between the ‘female’ and ‘male’ lunch boxes.

There are also female commenters on Weibo who claim they can eat much more than their male colleagues. “Just give me the male version,” one female user wrote: “I’ll eat that meal instead.”

This is the second time this month that initiatives launched in relation to China’s anti food waste campaign receive online backlash.

A restaurant in Changsha triggered a storm of criticism earlier this month after placing two scales at its entrance and asking customers to to enter their measurements into an app that would then suggest menu items based on their weight. The restaurant later apologized for encouraging diners to weigh themselves.

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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