Inviting weather has finally arrived and it’s time to take stock of the nightlife in Suzhou as we plan our nocturnal excursions. The usual landmarks are still present on Shi Quan Street, Li Gong Di, Zhu Hui Road and at other locations. But what new spots have popped up since we first bundled up in front of the heater and decided to watch a DVD rather than venture out last December? Let’s try to make sense of the ever-changing landscape that is the Suzhou bar scene.
Shi Quan Street is much the same as we left it; a little something for everyone. From clubs to dive bars, the familiar players are still bringing in the crowds who have come to rely on this street for most of their nights out. If there have been any changes at all over the past three to four months, it might be in the growing number of bars west of Feng Huang Street. This area has the potential to challenge Pulp Fiction as the epicentre of Shi Quan nightlife. The addition of Country City USA at 621 Shi Quan Street may just do the trick (opening within weeks). Purported to boast live country music, a spacious bar and an emphasis on American décor, it’s obvious which crowd the management has set its sights on. Still, country music may be a hard sell in a city so accustomed to dance clubs.
Elsewhere, Zhuhui Road’s party has gone west; from Boiling Point near Shi Quan to Linkup at the intersection of Ren Min Road. An electronics supermarket by day, the area has now evolved into a flashy enclave of dance clubs by night. Phoebe and Soho are just two of the clubs that feature impressive renovation (Phoebe was just redone in February), but lack equally impressive tunes. Expect the same mindless Chinese remixes of 5-year-old European house hits that you’d find even farther west at K Bar and other clubs. The notable newcomer to this general area, Gaga Club, has a name that makes one wonder if it will provide fresher musical selections than its rivals. Here it disappoints, even if the inside environment is impressive. Also, I say ‘general area’ rather generously, as it’s almost a kilometre to the south of Phoebe on Ren Min Rd. If you don’t mind taking taxis, it’s worth a peek to see the newest club in Suzhou, but don’t expect to be surprised.
Elsewhere in Suzhou, Li Gong Di continues its slow march into nightlife relevance for expats. Sure, Scarlet will always be a mainstay among locals and adventurous foreigners alike, but in terms of bars, Li Gong Di has always been an underdog. Tunnel Bar, Jenny’s Bar, and Pravda hope to change that. Offering traditional, energetic, and chill atmospheres respectively, they aim to put the “pub” back in “pub block”; the misleading epithet emblazoned on structures amidst Li Gong Di’s numerous clubs and KTVs. Still, the aforementioned bars aren’t overnight successes, and long-time resident Garbo’s seems to currently claim the most loyal customers who enjoy chatting on their canal-side terrace. Still, one feels that the bar scene at Li Gong Di is close to reaching critical mass; that magic moment when there are enough people and bars to make it a one-stop shop for dinner, drinking, and dancing.
Back downtown, we have some truly new and exciting develops for Suzhou nightlife. Cheers, a bar by Johnny Bing of Badabing’s and Backstreet Bar fame, has opened in Blue Marlin I’s former residence. It promises more great live music that you’re used to from Johnny’s establishments, and its strategic location shouldn’t be overlooked. When asked his thoughts on the space, Suzhou musician JD Nash remarked “random stripper pole on the second floor; great pool table though.” If that doesn’t make you want to try it out, I’m not sure what will.
Finally we get to the crème de la crème of new nightspots: In Pub (dubbed In Club by frequenters because, well, it’s a club and not a pub). Now In Pub isn’t exactly brand spanking-new, but for any place to do as well as it’s doing at Xuan Miao Plaza, site of the now-defunct Rojam and Maya clubs, it’s worth mentioning again. In Pub has really used the area to its advantage; in its early days it put a velvet rope and red carpet out so visitors could walk under the archway of the neighbouring Sofitel Hotel for the full VIP experience (apparently paparazzi were supposed to line up to get shots of newcomers decked out in their fashionable garb). It’s also just around the corner from TGI Friday’s, so if a cocktail or three is what you need to get your nerves up to dance, go right ahead. In Pub has it all - the latest music, great drinks, and good dance space on and off stage. Plus they have outdoor couches perfect for relaxing on after dancing up a storm. What more could you ask for?
Phoebe Bar菲芘View In Map
Add: 1F, LinkUp, 688 Zhhui Lu, Suzhou
CheersView In Map
Add: 261 Fenghuang Jie, Suzhou
Country City USAView In Map
Add: 2F, 621 Shi Quan Jie, Suzhou
In Pub 88 酒吧 View In Map
Add: 1F, 818 Ganjiang Donglu, Suzhou
Tel: 0512 6801 1988
Gaga ClubView In Map
Add: 39 Ren Min Rd. 人民南路39号
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