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Last orders called at bar street before face-lift

By CUI JIA | China Daily | Updated: 2023-02-02 09:36

Senior Beijing resident surnamed Wang and his wife take pictures on Tuesday at Beijing's Languifang, their favorite bar and the location of a date they had together when they were younger. The Sanlitun bar street, where Languifang is located, will be temporarily shut down for renovations. CUI JIA/CHINA DAILY

People flocked to the legendary Sanlitun bar street in Beijing on Tuesday night to celebrate the good times they'd spent in the bars there for the last time before their closure. For many regular visitors, the bar street had not only accompanied them in their young and wild days, but was also an example of China's reform and opening-up progress.

The street, which is near the embassy area in Chaoyang district, was developed in the 1990s. It is home to some of the city's oldest bars, which were opened after China implemented its reform and opening-up policy.

After being appraised by a third-party organization, the buildings on the street — a strip located across the street from the popular Taikooli shopping complex — were deemed unsafe so they had to be closed by Tuesday for renovations, said Wei Lei, deputy director of Sanlitun subdistrict.

After hearing the news, a senior Beijing resident surnamed Wang and his wife took pictures on Tuesday at Languifang, their favorite bar and the location of a date they had together when they were younger.

"We have so many beautiful memories here. In the 1990s, the bar street was the must-go place for fashionable young people in Beijing. It was the only one of its kind and there was no place like it," the 60-year-old said. "We are here today to preserve the last memory of it and to bid farewell to our youth."

The bars were also popular among expatriates and had become great platforms for cultural exchanges, especially when the country first started to open up and people were eager to learn about the world, Wang said.

"During our visits to the bars over the years, we could tell that people had become more confident when exchanging ideas with people from other countries. In fact, the bars have witnessed the progress that China has made," he added.

Liu Yan, who has lived in the Sanlitun area for more than 40 years, said she has seen how the bar street took shape and how the street was packed with people from all over the world during its glory days.

"As Beijing becomes more international, better bars have opened around the city. The city's first bar street is no longer unique and as popular as it once was, so the upgrades are quite necessary," said the 65-year-old who also came to see the street before the renovations begin.

On Tuesday night, many bars on the street were closed with a notice stuck on the doors saying "housing structure is not suitable for operation, which seriously affects the overall safety". Some chose to open till the last minute so loyal customers could have their last drinks there.

As part of the renovation, other types of businesses such as coffee shops and restaurants offering healthy food will be opened on the street, said Wei, the official from Sanlitun subdistrict, adding that even with their arrival, the area will still be known as bar street.

Liu said she is glad that the area will keep its name because the bar street has become a symbol of China's opening-up progress.

"The history of the street is worth remembering. That's why there are so many people here to say goodbye," she said.

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