Changing Nightlife Scene: Suzhou’s New Breed of Nightclubs

Changing Nightlife Scene: Suzhou’s New Breed of Nightclubs
By Bryce Roberts ,

Up until this year, the club scene in Suzhou could be compared to a collection of Steven Seagal movies: they’re hackneyed, all the same, but can be enjoyable from time to time.  Fortunately a number of new clubs have opened with an eye to change the redundant dance scene, just as old clubs have revamped their music selections.  As we prepare for 2011, Suzhou’s nightclubs have never been more diverse or lively than they are now. 

No one place speaks to the transformation Suzhou’s club scene is undergoing as much as Li Gong Di, in the Suzhou Industrial Park (SIP).  Here, the former crème de la crème dance bar, Scarlet, has seen its business drop off.  This two-floor venue was once packed every night of the week; now it manages to draw large crowds only on weekends and for special events.  One reason (although surely not the primary one) may be the emergence of nearby Pravda as a late-night magnet for a majority of Suzhou’s foreign population.  This smallish, Russian-themed bar features a modest dancing area, but is a lounge at heart.  Partiers can take a break from the noise and motion on comfortable couches nearby, or in the adjacent billiards room.  A reasonably-priced drink menu (no 50 RMB, lukewarm Heinekens here!), 10 RMB shots, and theme nights keep the customers coming back.  This is one microcosm of how Suzhou’s bar scene is migrating from longtime favourites to newer upstart venues.

In the heart of Suzhou, near Guan Qian Street, another transformation has taken place.  In Pub has established itself as the new powerhouse dance club in the downtown area.  Opened just over a year ago, In Pub combines great mashup music with stage acts like dancers, singers and performers.  The main seating area is spacious, yet still crowded almost every night.  Private rooms in the back give guests a chance to sing on their own or relax in a quieter setting.

At the corner of Ren Min Road and Zhu Hui Road, amidst the LinkUp digital shopping center, a number of clubs are still battling over the same turf.  Soho, Phoebe, and Fever all stand adjacent to one another.  While disparate crowds have certainly picked their individual favourites out of the three, the foreign contingents there seem undermanned.  These clubs represent everything that Suzhou’s club scene used to be: old remixes of still older European house and trance hits, with constant, obnoxiously loud exhortations like “Dajia yiqi tiaowu!” (everyone dance together!) from the house MCs.  With the addition of clubs with better music and more foreign-friendly staff, many Westerners have begun to shirk the clubs on Ren Min Road.

Almost not worth mentioning are the clubs along downtown Suzhou’s westernmost canal; K Bar being the prominent one (neighbouring Old House is no more).  These establishments have been around for five or six years (what seems like a century in Suzhou’s ever-changing nightlife environment).  They feature much of the same pitfalls as the group around LinkUp, and are far enough away from where most expats live that they aren’t worth the effort.

Another surprising addition to Suzhou’s rank of clubs is Bobo Town.  Located near Shi Road (Suzhou’s secondary commercial center after Guang Qian St.), Bobo Town also benefits from skilled DJs and singers.  Like In Pub, Bobo Town is the local incarnation of one of China’s larger entertainment brands, thus giving it talented musicians and performers who work in the circuit of clubs owned by the parent company.  Bobo Town has aspirations of bringing in headlining foreign DJs, although a recent planned show by Paul Van Dyk was scrapped before it came to fruition.  While it’s a bit of a hike for SIP-dwellers to head across the city to this venue, it would only take one or two shows from an internationally-known DJ to get partiers in the habit of visiting this diamond in the rough.

Suzhou is fortunate to have seen so many quality clubs open in the past year, and the landscape is visibly changing.  The old-school clubs like Boiling Point (Zhu Hui Road and Nan Men is the main location), Soho, and Phoebe still have consistent followings, as does yesteryear’s favorite: Scarlet.  However, large companies who have invested in the likes of In Pub and Bobo Town, and small startup Pravda, are turning the tables on the aforementioned clubs.  Newer music, more reasonably priced drinks, and better acts on stage are what the people are demanding.  And that’s what they’re getting at Suzhou’s new breed of nightclubs. 

Phoebe Bar near LinkUp菲比 领华数码城旁 View In Map
Add: 688 Zhu Hui Lu, Suzhou
地址: 苏州市竹辉路688号
Tel: 159 5000 6092

Pravda LoungeView In Map
Add: Ligongdi, SIP (next to Mario’s Pizza), Suzhou
地址: 苏州市工业园区李公堤
Tel: 0512 6296 3163

In Pub 88酒吧 View In Map
Add: Xuan Miao Plaza at 818 Gan Jiang Lu, Suzhou
地址: 苏州市干将东路818号
Tel: 0512 6801 1988

Scarlet乱世佳人 View In Map
Add: 1912 Ligongdi Rd., SIP, Suzhou
地址: 苏州市工业园区李公堤1912号 

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Keywords: Nightclubs Suzhou clubs Suzhou nightlife scene Suzhou new nightclubs Suzhou


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